CLEVELAND — LeBron James has been Mr. Everything for the Cleveland Cavaliers for much of the 2018 postseason.
Yet Youth Justin Bethel Jersey , coach Tyronn Lue said Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals — won 116-86 by the Cavs — was James’ best “in a long time.”
Because James really defended.
“As far as helping, closing out to Jaylen Brown’s chest, making him put it on the floor,” Lue explained. “Closing out to (Marcus) Morris. Closing out to (Marcus) Smart, so he did a really good job of just setting the tone of multiple effort and that was good for us.”
James scored 27 points to go with 12 assists on 8-of-12 shooting. But, according to ESPN’s research, Saturday was his best game on defense this postseason.
The Cavs put him on Brown — the Celtics‘ best player in the first two games of this series — and Brown didn’t even score until there was 8:20 left in the second quarter.
The Celtics shot 2 of 10 and committed four turnovers when their ballhandler was guarded by James. Brown was 3-of-8 shooting for 10 points.
“Just tried to put myself in position to help our team,” James said. “I think tonight as a group, even when things broke down, we just covered for one another.”
The Celtics lead this series 2-1, and Game 4 is Monday in Cleveland. Boston has never blown a 2-0 lead in 37 tries. But they were startled by how well the Cavs played Saturday and how poorly things went for them.
Cleveland had a 2018 playoffs-high six players score in double figures and connected on 17 3s.
Morris, who forced James into 5-of-16 shooting in Game 1 and scored 21 points himself Taven Bryan Jersey Jaguars , struggled in Game 3.
“Personally, I think I did a (poor) job defensively with LeBron,” Morris said. “He was too comfortable when I was guarding him. I made myself very vulnerable on screens and wasn’t disciplined. We can’t have that in a game of this magnitude, and it showed.”
The Cavs gave Al Horford little room to move and it stifled the Celtics’ offense. Boston coach Brad Stevens said the Celtics would have to consider lineup changes “because of the way (Cleveland is) playing.” Tristan Thompson is guarding Horford and Kevin Love is on Morris. The Celtics want to force Love to guard Horford.
“I just didn’t think our offense in general was very good,” Stevens said. “Our defense wasn’t much better. We got thoroughly outplayed on both ends. Obviously we’re going to need to play through him more than that.”
George Hill scored eight points in the first two games of the series, and exploded for 11 in the first quarter of Game 3. JR Smith shot 0-for-7 for no points in Game 2, and recovered with 11 points in Game 3. Kyle Korver connected on all four 3s and finished with 14 points.
The Celtics have been bad on the road all postseason and fell to 1-5 with Saturday’s loss. But never in these playoffs had they been clobbered quite like the clobbering the Cavs laid upon them.
Yet, the Celtics could move to within a game of closing out the Cavs and stopping James’ consecutive NBA Finals streak at seven with a win in Game 4.
“This is the way we have to play,” Lue said. “I think bringing the physicality to start.”
PITTSBURGH — The rearview mirror was a popular item, at least figuratively, for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on their day between playoff games Thursday.
The Penguins, defending Stanley Cup champions Authentic Leighton Vander Esch Jersey , downplayed their 7-0 series-opening win in which they dominated in pretty much every area and vowed to concentrate on Game 2 on Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.
The Flyers, conversely, were hoping to move past the painful loss and even the first-round series before it moves to Philadelphia.
“It’s one game. Whether it’s 7-0 or 1-0 in double overtime, it’s one game,” said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who had a hat trick in Game 1. “A big part in the playoffs is to get better every game and adjust. That’s the way you have to look at it.”
The Penguins expect the Flyers to do the same, and to charge back Friday.
“We know it’s going to be a tough challenge; they’re a good hockey team,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We would expect that they would respond appropriately.”
Philadelphia has not been able to do that so far. Pittsburgh swept four games between the teams during the regular season, scoring five goals in each of those games, before trouncing their cross-state and Metropolitan Division rivals Wednesday in their postseason opener.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said the game looked just as lopsided when he reviewed it on video.
“They did an outstanding job,” Hakstol said of the Penguins. “They were the better team. There was very little time, space. They were the quicker team Authentic Robert Griffin III Jersey , and they executed in all the little areas of the game better than we did.
“You can’t go out in practice and work on everything. It doesn’t work that way … so we just picked a couple of things that we wanted to try to brush up on. The other things, we’ll have to do through a little bit of video, a little bit of discussion, and mostly just clearing the mind and getting the focus back on Game 2.”
Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had 102 points during the regular season, was highly disappointed after Game 1, when he was minus-4 for the first time this season.
“It’s one of the worst games I’ve been a part of,” Giroux said. “I was terrible. I made a lot of bad plays.”
Still, he was confident enough about the Flyers bouncing back that he was willing to predict a win in Game 2.
“We’ve got to play better and play with a little bit more attitude,” Giroux said. “We’ve got a day here to think about it. We’re going to get out of this together, win the next game and go back home 1-1.”
While Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray is coming off a 24-save shutout and has a franchise-record 206:26 shutout streak dating to last year’s Stanley Cup Final, it remains to be seen whether Philadelphia will come back with Brian Elliott Connor Williams Jersey Elite , who gave up five goals on 16 shots in Game 1, or switch to Petr Mrazek, who allowed two goals on 14 shots in relief.
After Wednesday’s game, Hakstol said his inclination was to stick with Elliott, but he declined to confirm that after practice Thursday.
“I’m not ready to say anything about lineups,” Hakstol said. “I fully stand by what I said (Wednesday) night. That was how I felt. I’m not going to move away for sure from that, but I’m not making any lineup decisions or announcing any lineup decisions (Thursday).”