The Cleveland Cavaliers took care of business in Game 3 and held serve at home. But all that could be for nothing if they don’t come out with a strong performance in Game 4.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics, Game 4
When? 8:30 pm
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio.
Where on my eyeballs? ESPN
For the first time in this series, the Cavs were able to dictate the terms of play in Game 3. They neutralized Al Horford by shadowing him with Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr., crippling the Celtics offense. They also ran plays for George Hill early on to try and force him to be more assertive.
Cleveland will need to try and do more of the same, while also being prepared to counter whatever adjustments Brad Stevens comes up with. It seems incredibly unlikely that Boston will play with the same malaise we saw in Game 3. With the possibility of Cleveland tying up the series and making this a best two-out-of-three, Boston can’t afford to give the Cavs momentum.
It’s possible that the Cavs turned a corner in Game 3. We saw far more movement off ball and with Hill being aggressive, it finally gave the team the second creator they needed. Thompson and Nance setting LeBron loose with screens caused headaches all game for Boston, as they were left with a choice of leaving Baynes one on one with LeBron, or bringing help and leaving a shooter open.
The Cavs also got back to what has made them so successful defensively in the past. While this is still a considerably flawed defensive team, they funneled the open shots to Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, Greg Monroe and Semi Ojeleye. This defense is always going to concede open looks, but when they are actually trying they can at least dictate who is getting those looks at a good enough clip to win.
But the real key comes down to how the team contains Al Horford. Tyronn Lue seems to have realized that they cannot play Kevin Love at center while Horford is on the floor. Having Thompson and Nance, both of whom are quick and long enough to guard him on all three levels offensively, limited his assertiveness and ability to be a threat in the pick and roll. If you remove that aspect of the Celtics game offensively, I’m skeptical that they will be able to generate enough offense to win two more games in this series.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction:
I doubt Boston is going to roll over easily in this game. They have shown fight all year long and are playing with a chip on their shoulder. But given their struggles on the road and the fact that they are playing a reinvigorated Cavs team, I don’t think they’ll be able to generate enough offense to win this game. Cavs win 104-97.