Given how impressive he had been in his previous 10 games, a bad night for James almost should have been expected."I was just pretty poor"."I had a tough game, period", James said.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.Im kind of glad it happened the way it did, James said.
Not just any playoff game.
It's great call by Boston, and the next one is better still. So they had to kind of reshape, and that's the beauty of having Brad Stevens as your coach. His performance on the whole was a rousing success. In Game 1 against Boston, LeBron dominated, scoring 38 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out seven assists. The two outcomes may have been equally improbable.
Even so, this was a classic regular season effort.
Thomas has one more year left on his contract, and will be asking for big-time money once that contract is up.
The loss snapped Cleveland's 10-game winning streak in this postseason and a 13-game run dating to Game 4 of last year's Finals. From that point on, the Cavs duo outscored the Celtics, 60-50. Much of the rest is vexing-indispensable on the right night and completely unreliable on the wrong one.
He took the attitude that, "I just find ways to get into the lane, to get in transition, to back off and shoot the jumper".
Considering the broader implications of Smart's place on the team, this is a rare opportunity. The long, looping curls created to get Boston's point guard a clean three-pointer were not conceived with Smart in mind. Cleveland Cavaliers showed up just in time for the second half of Game 3.
These games can be instructive. He knows that. We know that.
Certainly, Boston's defense had a role in James' struggles. Finding satisfactory minutes for all four of Thomas, Smart, Avery Bradley, and a star guard prospect would be nearly impossible. Defensively, they didn't have to cover for Thomas, and they were swarming Cleveland.
Smart's turn at the head of the offense, then, offers a window for evaluation that Boston wouldn't have had otherwise. Would trading Thomas for a big be a possibility? In making those determinations, playoff games like these matter. A more ferocious and driven LeBron will come out firing on all cylinders and we'll be headed back to the Garden as Boston will try to somehow keep hope alive.
For a while on Tuesday night, it really looked like the Celtics were going to even up this series.
But if Games 3 and 4 are any indication, it won't be easy. "We wish he was here with us, and we just want him to get better". Is this guy a legitimate starting point guard? Let's not confuse that with the Celtics being a better team without the minute Celtics guard. He makes the right play over and over, and he thinks the game, he sees the game.
Smart is, in many ways, constantly grinding against the fiber of the modern National Basketball Association.
This is why there's room for Boston's front office and coaching staff to be fans of Smart but still wind up trading him to ease a positional crunch. That won't happen again, and it should be everyone's expectation that Cleveland will revert back to form, but it's also a reminder of how much the Cavs will need LeBron at his all-time best, should they advance and play the Warriors in the Finals. Some rough patches are to be expected, as are standout moments.