CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – So the Cavs won’t sweep the East.
And apparently LeBron James is human.
James scored just 11 points as the Cavs blew a 21-point second half lead and lost their first playoff game of the post season 111-108 on Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer that rattled in with 0.1 left on the clock.
“I had a tough game, period. I didn’t have it,” James said following a stunning 111-108 loss in Game 3 that ended the Cavs’ bid to sweep the Eastern Conference. “They doubled me a little bit more in the post. My performance personally was all on me.”
James didn’t score a point over the final 16:31 of the second half, missed his final 4 shot attempts to finish 4 of 13 from the field while committing 6 turnovers, including 2 of them late. It was James’ lowest scoring output in a playoff game since a 7-point performance on 2-for-10 shooting against the Pacers, while with Miami, on May 28, 2014.
“I mean, he’s human, so he’s going to have a night like this,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well, and we still had a 20-point lead. A game we should have won, but they played hard. They scrapped. They have a scrappy team. We knew that coming into tonight. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we got some things we can correct and come back ready to go on Tuesday.”
It was also eerily reminiscent of Game 5 of the 2010 conference semifinals against the Celtics at home.
At times James looked disengaged and disinterested in the second half even as the lead slipped away and the Celtics picked up momentum.
Boston’s rally was fueled by Marcus Smart’s 7 of 10 effort from beyond the arc, including making 5 of 6 in the second half. Conversely, after hitting 14 threes in the first half the Cavs made just 2 in the final 24 minutes.
Cleveland went cold from the field hitting just 11 of 35 shots after halftime too.
The loss ended the Cavs’ 13-game playoff win streak as well as James’ streak of 35-point performances at 8 games.
Boston exploded for a 55-31 run to end the game after the Celtics trailed by 21 with nearly 6 minutes to play in the third quarter marking the largest blown lead in a playoff game by a James-led team. James was 49-0 prior to Sunday night when leading by 20 or more in a game according to ESPN.
Keep in mind the Celtics mounted their comeback without their best player – Isaiah Thomas.
After the game on his way to the post game press conference, a belligerent Cavs fan heckled James prompting James to fire back with a few words of his own. The fan was removed by Cavs security personnel who stepped in.
Then, during the press conference James went after a Cleveland radio veteran when asked for specifics as to why he had an off night.
“I was just pretty poor. I mean, what do you want me to say,” James responded.
For whatever reason, James was not his usual aggressive self down the stretch but somehow saw a positive in what is a stunning chain of events.
“I think it’s great – what happened hurts,” James said. “It’s a loss in the postseason. But I’m glad it kind of hurt, that it happened the way it did – let our foot off the gas a little bit, didn’t keep the pressure on them like we have been accustomed to. But we have to play a lot better in Game 4.”
Leave it to James to find a bright side to what was an awful night.
“I feel some adversity is all part of the postseason,” James said. “I feel like you have to have some type of adversity in order to be successful. If it was going to happen, let it happen now; let us regroup. Let us regroup and all the narrative and everything that was going on, let’s regroup and let’s get back to playing desperate basketball, which they did tonight. So we’ve got to be a lot better, for sure.”