All throughout Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, I kept wondering the same thing.
"What's wrong with LeBron James?"
Even when the Wine and Gold were up by 16 at half, you could tell that the four-time MVP wasn't himself. But since Kevin Love was hitting a lot of threes and Kyrie Irving was doing Kyrie things, no one really noticed.
But when the shots stopped falling for the Cavs, and Boston started to believe, LeBron's off-night became glaring. And the Celtics rode that momentum all the way to a shocking 111-108 win Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Yes, the Cavs still hold a 2-1 series lead and home court advantage.
Yes, they are still the better, more talented team.
But this loss was very disconcerting. At the very least, it forces them to have to go back to Boston one more time and have less rest time before the NBA Finals. But this loss also brings back the bugaboo we all thought had left this team when the playoffs started: the inability to maintain focus for four full quarters of a game. And it gives a scrappy Celtics team hope that they can still win this series. After all, they did lose the first two games at home to the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, only to come back and advance. Now Boston has the belief they can do it again.
But back to LeBron.
I absolutely hate to pile on the King because he's been so brilliant in these playoffs. He came into Sunday night having scored 30 or more points in 8 straight games. He's carried the Cavs when they've needed a pick-me-up, and distributed to his teammates who have had the hot hand beautifully.
Sunday, LeBron looked like all of the energy had been drained from him. He scored just 11 points, with 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 turnovers.
We've noted when James has had monumental stats, here are some ones he'd rather forget:
LeBron James - Final 16:31 of Game 3— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 22, 2017
3-pt FG 0-2
This is the largest blown lead of LeBron James postseason career (21 points). His teams were 49-0 when they led by 20 points or more.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 22, 2017
Last time LeBron James played entire 4th quarter at home and didn't score ...
February 24, 2006 against Wizards— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 22, 2017
James didn't mince words after the Cavs' loss. "I had a tough game, period. Not just in the second half. Me personally, I just didn't have it. My teammates did a great job keeping us in the game and building that lead. But me personally, I didn't have it."
Some of that frustration boiled over when James was asked by WHBC Radio's Kenny Roda to expand on why he had such a rough night offensively.
LeBron James snipes at a reporter after Game 3 loss: "You only ask questions when we lose... You always come around when we lose, I swear." pic.twitter.com/QoIdcbK021— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 22, 2017
To be fair, LeBron has had it in for my old radio partner since December of 2010, when James first came back to Cleveland after 'The Decision' and had declared that he had 'made a list' of those who were slighting him and Kenny was on that list.
So what's next for the Cavs? "Well, we're going to crack down on the film tomorrow, for sure," LeBron stated. "We've got to be a lot better. It's the postseason. You win some, you lose a couple, maybe, but how can you be better from game to game?"
There were people after the game tweeting at me that maybe Sunday's loss was a good thing for a Cavs team that clearly had gotten overconfident after their back-to-back demolitions of the Celtics in Boston. What does James think about that? "Well, I feel some adversity is all part of the postseason. 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."