Independence (92.3 the Fan) – The Cavaliers got beat at their own game on Sunday night, and now it is time to the defending champions to recalibrate their own game.
The adage says that teams ‘live by the three and die by the three,’ and the Cavaliers did the latter in Game 3, shooting 16-for-39 from deep while their opponents outdid them at 18-of-40. Seven of those Boston triples came by way of Marcus Smart, a sub-30 percent 3-point shooter on his career.
Kevin Love got hot from deep early en route to an eventual 21-point lead. The Cavs made 14 three-balls in the first half but then did not make a triple until 5:26 left in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Celtics had already tied the game.
Head coach Ty Lue admitted his side ‘fell in love’ with the 3-pointer after that hot first half, as it became obvious his team was not attacking the basket to their full capabilities, and it affected their overall flow.
“I thought our pace was bad, especially in that second half,” Lue said after practice on Monday. “I thought we got stops and didn’t play with that speed, that pace and that force that we’ve been playing with. They were able to get back, get their defense set, and we really didn’t attack the way we were capable of attacking.”
Lue added that his offense never really got a rhythm, citing the fact that they fed Love and Kyrie Irving because they were hot early. He said the offense has to take what the defense gives them, as opposed to only seeking out players who are hitting shots.
The lack of rhythm and lack of an attacking mindset was evident solely in LeBron James’ night, if not elsewhere. The three-time Champion looked unlike himself off the court and on, posting a very unlike-LeBron line of 11 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, with 6 turnovers and a 4-for-13 shooting night.
Lue mentioned the pace and lack of attack on three separate occasions Monday, leading one to believe that the aggression that seemed to be missing from tip – save Tristan Thompson – will return in Tuesday night’s Game 4.
“We’ve just got to get back to being physical, bringing the physicality and having a defensive mindset,” Lue said. “I think that is what hurt us.”
Within the issue of relying too much on the 3-pointer came the issue on passing up on open shots, as a lack of aggression spills into working too hard for the perfect three, as opposed to a great one.
“I think we got a little too passive,” JR Smith said. “We got a couple of shots we should have shot, tried to make the extra pass, which is fine. You would rather make a mistake looking for a teammate as opposed to being selfish and shooting shots. I think we made the extra pass a little too much.
“It is definitely a balance, because obviously they know he’s hot, too. So they know we’re going to look for him. In the same breath, we have to take our shots. Myself, Ky, LeBron, we’ve got to take our shots.”
On the opposite end of the conundrum, the Cavaliers are unlikely to lose too much sleep over the Celtics’ success beyond the arc. Aside from Smart’s other-worldly night, the only other Celtic to shoot above 50% from deep was Jonas Jerebko, who was 2-for-2 from downtown and 4-for-4 overall.
A simple adjustment can be made for Jerebko if he were to see more minutes in Game 4, but the team is unlikely to concern themselves with Smart and a potential repeat performance.