CLEVELAND -- At first, the three-point shot was the Cleveland Cavaliers’ greatest asset, but when needed most, they could not summon any makes from long distance, and it cost them dearly in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
A last-second three-pointer from guard Avery Bradley gave the Boston Celtics a 111-108 win over the Cavaliers in Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday night.
Cleveland Cavaliers battle Boston Celtics in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Finals
After making 14 of their first 22 looks from long distance, the Cavaliers made just two of their 11 looks from three-point range in the fourth quarter, both from shooting guard J.R. Smith over the last five-plus minutes of play, and two of just 17 following the halftime break. Conversely, the Celtics buried five of their 11 three-point tries in the fourth quarter.
All five of the Cavaliers’ starters scored in double figures, led by point guard Kyrie Irving (29 points) and power forward Kevin Love (28), who added 10 rebounds in the losing effort.
Center Tristan Thompson finished off a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Known for his efforts on defense and rebounding, Thompson went 12 of 15 from the free-throw line and three of four from the field.
Small forward LeBron James and Smith added 11 and 13 points, respectively.
Although the Cavaliers got production out of the starting lineup, they had no answer for Boston’s bench, as Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko combined for 25 points. As a whole, Boston’s reserves outscored the Cavaliers bench, 32-9.
Despite the loss, the Cavaliers still hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into Tuesday’s Game 4 matchup in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers came out shooting and three-pointers proved to be their favorite, and most effective weapon in the first quarter of Game 3 against the Celtics.
Led by five triples from Love, the Cavaliers knocked down nine of their 13 looks from three-point range (69.2 percent) and hit 11 of their 17 overall shots from the field on the way to a 35-24 lead after the first quarter.
Thanks to their three-point shooting, the Cavaliers started the game on a 14-7 run. Four of the Cavaliers’ first five baskets were three-pointers, and the fifth came on an alley-oop dunk from Thompson after a pick-and-roll with Irving.
Smith got things going for the Cavaliers when he buried a three-pointer from the left corner of the floor on the first possession of the game. Then, after a missed shot and a turnover, Love knocked down a triple from the left wing.
Love followed with a three-pointer than gave the Cavaliers a 6-5 lead, and they never trailed again.
Irving extended the advantage when he sunk a three-pointer from the right wing, and following the dunk from Thompson, Love hit another triple, which gave the Cavaliers a 14-7 lead and forced the Celtics into a full timeout.
Over the next four-plus minutes, the Cavaliers matched the Celtics, basket for basket, as they each tallied 12 points.
Love and Irving each buried three-pointers during that stretch, and following the exchange, Irving swished three free throws after drawing a foul on a triple attempt from the right wing.
Down by as many as 21 points after a basket from Thompson with 6:39 to play in the third quarter, the Celtics stormed back and cut the deficit to just five, 87-82, heading into the fourth period.
The Celtics finished out the third quarter on a 26-10 run over the final six-plus minutes and outpaced the Cavaliers, 32-21, out of the halftime break.
Boston knocked down 11 of its 24 looks from the field, including six of 11 from three-point range, while the Cavaliers made only five of their 18 attempts and missed all six of their triple tries in the third quarter of play.
The Cavaliers’ “Big Three” of James, Irving and Love combined for just 13 points in the third quarter after having 47 in the first half.