Boston Celtics (0-2) at Cleveland Cavaliers (2-0)
Sunday, May 21, 2017
8:30 PM ET
Eastern Conference Finals Game #3
Playoff Game #16, Road Game #7
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, ESPN Radio
Quicken Loans Arena
To make things even more difficult, Isaiah Thomas, the team's leading scorer, will miss the rest of the series with a labrum tear in his right hip. Isaiah first injured the hip back in March and after missing two games, he managed the injury to finish the season. He aggravated the injury in Game 6 against the Wizards and played through the pain in Game 7. He left Game 2 at halftime and the doctors are shutting him down to avoid further injury.
Brad Stevens has said that Marcus Smart will more than likely start in his place along with Amir Johnson moving back to the starting lineup. He hadn't fully decided as of his press conference this morning. Any changes, if any, will likely come just before tip off. Brad may opt to start Jaylen Brown, who has been the best player in the first two games for the Celtics. He has also had some limited success in guarding LeBron. .
PG: Marcus Smart ........................................ SG: Avery Bradley
C: Al Horford
SF: Jae Crowder ............................................ PF: Amir Johnson
Isaiah Thomas (hip) out
PG: Kyrie Irving ................ SG: JR Smith
C: Tristan Thompson
SF: LeBron James................. PF: Kevin Love
Edy Tavares (hand) out
Jae Crowder vs LeBron James
LeBron has upped his averages to 34.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 7.1 assists for the playoffs and has been pretty much doing whatever he wants on the offensive end. Jae, Jaylen, Kelly, Marcus, and Jonas have all had a shot at trying to guard him, all to no avail. Jaylen has done the best job so far but LeBron has still gotten pretty much whatever he wants.
Amir Johnson vs Kevin Love
The Celtics have to also find a way to slow down Kevin Love. Love finished Game 1 with 32 points and 12 rebounds on 56% shooting. He also shot 67% on 3 pointers. In Game 2, he had 21 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 50% from the field. The Celtics need to find a way to limit his looks and keep him off the boards also.
Marcus Smart vs Kyrie Irving
Kyrie found his 3 point shot once again in Game 2 and so keeping him from having a big game will be important for the Celtics. He had 23 points and 3 assists and shot 50% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to limit his looks at the basket.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is key to winning every game. The Celtics must concentrate on getting stops and keeping the Cavaliers from scoring at will. The Cavs have gotten whatever they have wanted on offense so far in the series and the Celtics must concentrate on playing tough defense if they hope to keep this game from being another blowout loss.
Rebound - The Celtics can't score if they don't have the ball. They must crash the boards as a team to prevent the Cavs from getting second chance and fast break points. They also need to rebound to give themselves extra possessions and to fuel their running game. The Cavs out-rebounded the Celtics 45-39 in game 2 and so the Celtics need to have every player crash the boards if they want to have a chance in this game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to beat the Cavs to every loose ball and win the 50/50 plays. They have to be aggressive on the boards and in driving into the paint and to the basket. They have to be the team that works harder and the team that wants it more. The Cavs may have more stars, but the Celtics have to be the team that wins by playing harder. As Danny said after Game 1, they need more compete.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have given up big runs in each of their losses so far. The Celtics have to make their shots and they have to avoid turnovers in order to keep the Cavs from running out to a big lead once again. The Celtics need to avoid allowing the Cavs to go on a big run at any point. They need to play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
On the Road - The Celtics have been a good road team all season. They won 3 road games against the Bulls in the first round. They weren't able to win on the Wizards court, but they are going to have to win in Cleveland if they want to avoid a sweep. They have to focus on playing the game the right way and block out the distractions of playing in a hostile arena. Hopefully the Cavs will start to feel like they have this and let up just enough for the Celtics to steal a game.
Officiating - As always, the officiating is an x-factor. Every crew officiates differently and teams never know what to expect. Sometimes they let them play and other times they call a foul on every possession. Some games they call evenly and others they favor one team or the other. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolate... you never know what you are going to get. In most games against the Cavs, the Cavs seem to get the benefit of way too many calls. The Celtics must play through it and not let the officials take them out of the game if that happens.
Danny Crawford was voted the best referee in the league in a 2016 LA Times survey of coaches and players. He usually lets teams play and isn't a tyrant with the whistle. He officiated the Wizards Game 4 and the Bulls Game 5. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Crawford while the Cavs are 8-2 in their last 10. Crawford's home W/L record this season is 39-32.
Marc Davis was voted one of the worst referees in the league in a 2016 LA Times survey of players and coaches. Davis has been inconsistent in calling the Celtics' games. Sometimes he is good and sometimes he is very bad. He is so bad that he even got to mild mannered Brad Stevens, who got tossed for yelling at him about bad calls. The Celtics are 4-6 in their last 10 with Davis while the Cavs are 6-4 in their last 10 with Davis as an official. He is definitely not a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 37-37.
David Guthrie has been a decent referee in past games with the Celtics, usually letting the teams play rather than over-officiating. He officiated Game 1 with the Bulls. Cleveland is 5-5 in their last 10 games with Guthrie while the Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10. Another ref who isn't influenced by the home crowd, his home W/L record this season is 20-29,