CLEVELAND – We have seen this Boston Celtics team play at their best when their backs were to the wall.
But this Cleveland team is a different kind of challenge, one that the Boston Celtics simply aren’t built to beat right now.
Here’s the thing.
Someone forgot to tell this to Celtics who pulled off an amazing 111-108 win with Avery Bradley’s last-second 3-pointer that hit the back of the rim, took four bounces before settling on falling through the bottom of the net for the Celtics’ victory.
Marcus Smart scored a playoff career-high 27 points while Bradley had 20 points. Boston got major contributions off the bench with Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko chipping in 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 29 points while Kevin Love had 28 points and 10 rebounds.
Boston now trails Cleveland 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 in Cleveland on Tuesday and Game 5 back in Boston on Thursday.
The first quarter began with Boston doing the seemingly impossible – striking first.
Al Horford’s lay-up gave Boston a 2-point lead, their first lead in the series.
But the good times didn’t last long, with J.R. Smith draining a 3-pointer moments later.
Cleveland would continue to surge ahead in the quarter, but there was a different feel tonight.
Even though the Cavs played with a lead most of the quarter, Boston seemed to be doing enough to keep the game within arm’s reach.
Making that even more impressive was it was coming without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas, whose right hip injury that was re-aggravated in Game 2 will keep him out for the rest of the playoffs.
Even with Thomas out and the Celtics fielding a better defensive unit with Marcus Smart and Amir Johnson starting, Cleveland’s perimeter shooting was once again a major problem for Boston.
How bad was it?
The Cavs shot 64.7 percent in the first quarter on 11-for-17 shooting, which included them connecting on 9-for-13 of their first-quarter 3’s as Kevin Love led the way with five made 3’s of his own.
Cleveland, which led by as many as 50 points in their Game 2 beatdown in Boston, were in control but never led by more than 18 in the first half.
And that came on a 3-pointer by Smith with 21.9 seconds to play in the half.
Following a Celtics time-out, Smart drove into the lane for the last points of the half which ended with Boston trailing 66-50.