Maybe, just maybe the Celtics are about to show their age and go down in flames in this series.
I just doubt it.
Game 3 of this series was very predictable. OK, fine. A 30-point loss was a bit much. But NBA history strongly suggested that LeBron James wasn’t going to lose a Game 3 at home to a team that relies heavily on a rookie, a second-year dude and some guy named “Al.”
That said, recent basketball history suggests that the Celtics are going to put up one hell of a fight in Game 4 tonight in Cleveland (8:30 p.m., ESPN).
The C’s have only lost two games in a row once this postseason – Games 3 and 4 against Milwaukee. Game 3 against the Bucks was a 24-point blowout loss, but in Game 4 the Celtics almost pulled off a victory – losing by two, 104-102. You’ll remember that game as the Giannis Antetokounmpo tip-in game on a Sunday afternoon, and the game where the Celtics erased a 20-point advantage in the third quarter.
The veteran Cavs probably won’t let a sizable lead slip away like the Bucks did, so it’s paramount that the Celtics get out to an early lead in Game 4, or at least keep things close heading into the fourth quarter.
The Celtics lost 97-86 to Milwaukee in Game 6 of that series as well, but responded with a relatively easy 112-96 victory in Game 7. The C’s lost 103-92 in Game 4 against the Sixers in the second round, only to respond with a 114-112 win in Game 5 to close that series out.
In other words, this Celtics team responds quite well to being decked in the mouth.
The law of averages also says that the Cavs won’t shoot nearly as well tonight as they did in Game 3. LeBron went 3-for-3 from 3-point territory on Saturday night. George Hill couldn’t miss early on. JR Smith went 3-for-4 from deep. Kyle Korver was a perfect 4-for-4 behind the stripe. Jordan Clarkson, who was a DNP-CD in Game 2, even showed up for the Cavs in Game 3 – drilling three 3-pointers.
Game 4 tonight should be the best game, pound for pound, of the series thus far – mostly because the first three games have stunk from a late-game drama standpoint.
Game 1 was a blowout in favor of the Celtics. Game 2 was close early but a 36-point third quarter by the C’s made that one relatively easy down the stretch. And Game 3 on Saturday was a drubbing in favor of Cleveland.
The Celtics, who have little room for error in these games, need Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to look like they did in the first two rounds of these playoffs. Tatum put up just 10 shots from the floor in Game 3, his lowest shot attempt total since Game 5 of the Milwaukee series.
Brown was even more timid in Game 3, as he got up just eight shots. Even Marcus Smart shot the ball more than Brown Saturday night.
The good bet here is that Brad Stevens will correct most all that ailed the Celtics in Game 3, making a narrow Celtics road win tonight a good wager as well.