CLEVELAND -- On the heels of a 44-point win over the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden, the Cleveland Cavaliers were looking to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
But the Celtics had other plans, as they overcame a 21-point second-half deficit, and thanks to a last-second three-pointer from Avery Bradley, fought their way to a 111-108 victory over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday night.
“I feel some adversity is all part of the postseason,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron 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. So we've got to be a lot better, for sure.”
After making 14 of their first 22 looks from long distance, the Cavaliers made just two of their 11 attempts from three-point range in the fourth quarter, both from shooting guard J.R. Smith over the last five-plus minutes of play, and just two of 17 following the halftime break.
Conversely, the Celtics buried five of their 11 three-point tries in the fourth quarter.
Boston’s final three-pointer came when Bradley rimmed in a shot from the left wing with 0.1 seconds remaining. Bradley caught a pass on a reverse from guard Marcus Smart and buried the game-winning triple without a contest from the Cavaliers.
“A lot of things went wrong,” James said. “They moved the ball, like Double-T said -- 28 assists -- and they kept us at bay. We couldn't get stops. We couldn't get out in transition a lot. Those guys made plays. They made a lot of plays. They got some second-chance points. We only had two fast-break points, so they neutralized what we wanted to do.”
Prior to the Game 3 loss, the Cavaliers won 10 straight games to start the 2017 NBA Playoffs, and counting the three straight games won to close out the 2016 NBA Finals, they matched a league record with 13 consecutive postseason victories.
That was the third franchise or league record the Cavaliers tied of broke this postseason, as the 130 points and 44-point win margin in Game 2 were franchise records. Also, the 44-point win set the Eastern Conference Finals record.
But after Game 3, the Cavaliers are ready to get back to work.
“We've got to be a lot better,” James said. “It's the postseason. You win some, you lose a couple, maybe, but how can you be better from game to game? And like I said, they were better than we were, and we've got to figure out how to be better than them in Game 4.
“We look forward to the challenge. I think it's great. What happened hurts. 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.”