The Cavaliers season, and perhaps the second LeBron James era in Cleveland are at a crossroads as the team heads into Game 3 against the Boston Celtics in the conference Finals trailing 0-2. This series is not over, but a loss Saturday would all but confirm that it is. Losing to a healthy Celtics team would be one thing - losing to a Celtics team without their two best players? All but inexcusable. Cleveland needs to make a statement at home. two best players?
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics, Game 3
When: 8:30 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: Celtics Blog
Online: Watch ESPN
Cavs injuries: None to report
Celtics injuries: Kyrie Irving (OUT — knee surgery), Gordon Hayward, (OUT — ankle fracture), Shane Larkin (OUT — shoulder), Daniel Theis (OUT — knee)
Three keys to the game:
- Can the Cavaliers please run...stuff? They’ve found pockets of effective offense by getting into sets early, running multiple actions (good defenses normally take away the first thing you do, and if you only try one thing against the Celtics per possession, you’re gonna have a tough time.) Slipping screens, setting off-ball pindowns while the primary action is occurring and plenty of other fixes will help open up clean looks against the Celtics defense. The Cavs just have to, y’know, do them.
- J.R. Smith has rightfully received a ton of flak for playing as though he received money from some high-level bookies to throw the series. He probably shouldn’t even be playing in Game 3 after a very dirty and dangerous foul on Al Horford. With that said, how thrilled must George Hill be to have such a high profile failure masking his own problems? Hill has scored eight points, dished one assist and grabbed two rebounds in the first two games. I know that the “this guy’s making X amount of money and he’s giving us this!?” trope is worn out and rarely fair, but George Hill isn’t making $20 million this season to be a less aggressive Jose Calderon. He’s gotta play aggressively, and play better.
- Will we see Tyronn Lue turn to guys that, at the least he knows are going to play really hard? Cedi Osman and Larry Nance have the ability to affect games with their energy, though Nance’s minutes will be affected by how much run Tyronn Lue gives lineups with Kevin Love at the five. Lue says Rodney Hood will remain in the rotation, but at some point, these role players are going to have to suffer the kinds of consequences that Jordan Clarkson did in Game 2.
The Cavaliers against themselves. The Celtics are going to make adjustments, but the Cavs have too quickly quit and forgotten what got them where they are in this postseason. After years of watching Cavs teams turn it up a notch in the postseason, they’re sorely missing that gear. Players need to step up. Hopefully home court helps.
Fear the Sword’s fearless prediction:
The Cavaliers find their spirit and control this game. Cavs 111, Celtics 102.