CLEVELAND – LeBron James has had a bad night or two in the playoffs before, but Sunday’s clunker ranks pretty damn high among his all-time worst playoff performances.
Let me put it you this way.
Kelly Olynyk, serenaded with a steady chorus of boos from the Q Arena crowd, still managed to score 15 points.
He had 11 … for the game!
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Take a screen shot of that folks, because the chances of that happening in a game, one in which James doesn’t get hurt except for maybe his feelings, is slim.
But it did happen, and it was a major factor in Boston shocking the NBA world in knocking off the Cavs 111-108 in Game 3 following a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Avery Bradley.
For James’ part, he finished with just 11 points on 4-for-13 shooting which included him going scoreless in the fourth while missing all three of his shots in the quarter. He was also rolling some serious sixes statistically – six rebounds, six assists and (gulp!) six turnovers.
There were no foul issues for James other than his mood after the game (can you blame him?) or an injury he was dealing with.
James, the best player on the planet, had what amounts to one of the worst playoff games in his 14 NBA seasons.
When reminded that he had a tough second half in which he only scored three points, James responded, “I had a tough game, period. Not just in the second half. Me personally, I didn’t have it. My teammates did a great job of keeping us in the game, building that lead. But me personally, I didn’t have it. That’s all I’ve got to say about my performance.”
As far as the Celtics’ game plan defensively against James, head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that there’s “only so much you can do.”
Stevens added, “we just tried to be as solid as possible. We tried to switch a little bit less. I think we had a couple of guards out there that are bigger guards, and we just tried to rotate bodies on him. Jae Crowder picked up his fourth (personal foul), I think in the third (quarter), and the threat of not having him out there is scary. So, we were glad that he was able to finish.”
Boston’s Avery Bradley added, “I feel like guys like Jae Crowder and Al Horford, whoever switched on him, they did a great job.”
And the Cavs will look to get back on track after enduring their first loss of this postseason.
Despite the disappointment with his play and the loss in general, you can bet James will find positives to take from the defeat and use it to help him and Cleveland play better in Game 4.
“Well, I feel some adversity is all part of the postseason,” James said. “I feel like you have to have some type of adversity in order to be successful. If it was going to happen, let it happen now; let us regroup. Let us regroup and … let’s get back to playing desperate basketball, which they did tonight. So we’ve got to be a lot better, for sure.”