Five takeaways: Celtics vs. Cavaliers in Game 3
CLEVELAND – It was something you seldom see happen, even for the Boston Celtics who tend to be slow starters to games.
Al Horford did not get a single shot attempt – not one – in the first quarter which even if you didn’t know the score of Game 3 you would know that the Celtics probably got off to a not-so-great start. They got smashed 116-86 in Game 3 with Horford shooting 2-for-4 from the field.
But the fact that he didn’t get a single shot attempt in the first quarter was major factor in Cleveland’s ability to establish control of the game and never let up. Credit Tristan Thompson who has been among the better defenders against Horford in the past. The lack of shot attempts and touches for Horford was more a reflection on Boston’s lack of awareness in Game 3, than anything else.
“We were just all over the place, playing too fast,” said Terry Rozier. “We gotta get it to him.”
Horford’s usage percentage was .098, the lowest among all starters and second-lowest on the team behind Guerschon Yabusele (.072). You can bank on one of the biggest adjustments you’ll see from Boston in Game 4 will be to get Horford the ball in position for more shot attempts.
“We need to run our offense just with more pace,” Horford said after the Game 3 loss. “I think tonight a lot of the time we got caught up in just being in a lot of isolation positions. We need to do a better job moving the ball.
Horford added, “I think if we move the ball better, we will all benefit from that and it will be better.”
They contested 57 of Boston’s 74 shot attempts, or 77.0 percent of the Celtics’ shot attempts – the highest contested shot percentage for either team in this series. Being on the road coupled with very few open looks, it becomes difficult to compete let alone beat a team when those two things are in play.
While Cleveland’s supporting cast certainly deserves credit for stepping their game up, George Hill was the catalyst. His first-quarter scoring was critical to Cleveland opening the game with a strong push. Hill finished with 13 points, 11 of which came in the first quarter.
LEBRON THE DEFENDER
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris both struggled to contribute offensively for Boston and LeBron James’ defense had a lot to do with that. Brown, Boston’s No. 2 scorer in the postseason, was defended by James on 23 possessions while scoring just five of his 10 points. And Morris was defended by James on 23 possessions as well. And like Brown, he also scored just five points as part of a sub-par 9-point game.
One of the more stealth adjustments of Game 3 involved Cavs coach Tyronn Lue’s decision to make taking Jaylen Brown out of the offense in the first quarter, a top priority. Brown tallied 10 points, but not a single one came in the first quarter. Prior to Game 3, Brown had been averaging 13.5 points scored in the first quarter in this series.
It was truly the best and worst of times for Boston when it comes to the 3-point shot in Game 3. The fact that they were a miserable 6-for-22 (27.3 percent) shooting from 3-point range was just the beginning of their 3-point problems. Boston’s defense allowed the Cavs to knock down 17 three-pointers. The fact that they nailed that many and did so while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range … you’re not going to win many games when you’re 3-point shooting and 3-point defense are that poor in the same game.