Mike Brown is a super-genius after the Cavaliers plastered the Celtics 124-95 in game three of the Eastern Conference semi-finals in Boston. What else could possibly be the explanation after Brown was under such fire after game two? Of course, I am joking. Mike Brown will always look better when the Cavaliers come out playing focused defense from the beginning of a game while also executing on the offensive end. Mike Brown also looks incredible when LeBron comes out looking like the guy who never had his elbow mentioned before. In fact, many of Mike Brown’s biggest critics (myself included on occasion) will use LeBron as one of the reasons why Mike Brown isn’t nearly as good a coach as his career record indicates. No matter today, as the Cavs have retaken the lead in the series, while also regaining their home court advantage against the Celtics.
From the beginning, it seemed like maybe Cavs fans were in for another long night like in game two. The Cavs got out to a relatively fast start leading 8-4 very early in the first quarter and then in a matter of a few minutes, the Cavaliers turned the ball over in bunches. There was a bad pass by Shaq, a bad pass by Anthony Parker, and a travel by LeBron. I am pretty sure I just barely heard the collective groans of a paranoid, wary Cavaliers fanbase all the way out in Geauga county. But then an early turning point occurred.
The score was 10-8 Cavaliers when Kendrick Perkins put a flagrant foul on LeBron James. It wasn’t the ugliest, dirtiest foul I have ever seen, but by definition Perkins made no attempt on the ball. LeBron made those two free throws, the Cavs got the ball back and LeBron nailed a jumper to put the Cavs up 14-8. The Cavs would go on to score 36 in the quarter, while Boston managed to score only 9 additional points over the first quarter’s remaining six minutes to trail the Cavs 36-17. The Celtics also trailed LeBron as he poured in 21 first quarter points.
That was all the Cavs would need to carry the entire game. The Cavs went on to win every quarter for for good measure. Nobody had to talk about LeBron’s elbow as he scored 38 points. Antawn Jamison had his offense working as he scored 20 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. Delonte West was aggressive off the bench in scoring 14 points on five of seven shooting. Delonte had his jumper working. Shaq made five of seven field goals to score 12 points while grabbing 9 boards in just over 22 minutes.
Other than LeBron, the story of the game was Anthony Parker’s defense on Rajon Rondo. At this stage of his career, you aren’t going to be able to completely shut Rondo down, but you just have to do something to keep him from becoming the monster he became in game two. Parker did a relatively good job of keeping Rondo in front of him, daring him to shoot jumpers whenever possible. Rondo did escape from time to time, especially when Boston started setting picks for him just after the time line. In the end though, the Cavaliers won that battle as Rondo scored 19 points on 17 shots. Rondo also had eight assists, but could have had more if his team had shot better. On the night, the Celtics shot 42.7% from the field (45.1% eFG%) vs. the Cavaliers who shot 59.5% (62.8% eFG%.)
Obviously this series is still far from over. The Cavaliers have another game in Boston before they get to return home for game five. They won a game they needed, but now that they have shown how good they can be, it will be interesting to see which team shows up for game four. I am left wondering if maybe we should listen to LeBron more carefully. After game two, he expressed his disappointment, but he also told Cavaliers fans not to panic. Obviously he knows a lot more than we do, but sometimes even his words can’t help contain the tsunami of paranoia and teeth gnashing that goes along with being a Cleveland sports fan. That’s probably on us more than it is on him, but what else is new?