By MyFM's Jake Archer - Things got really gloomy for Celtics fan over the weekend as the team got their doors blown off again in Game 2 by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the 130-86 loss at home, the team fell into an 0-2 hole and looked about as checked out as possible. Most Celtics fans knew that this series probably wasn’t going to be won, but this was embarrassing. The Cavaliers were punking the Celtics and breaking their will. All seemed to be lost.
All wasn’t lost however, because there was more to lose. Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics best player, had missed the second half of Game 2 with a hip injury that has been nagging him for some time now. Apparently he re-aggravated it during the series with the Wizards and was trying to continue to play through it, but had it flare up again on Friday night. On Saturday, it was announced that Thomas would miss the remainder of the postseason and may need surgery.
The Celtics had hit rock bottom. The whole narrative about this team had changed and some were even saying Thomas had “tapped out.” That’s ridiculous considering how tough we all know IT to be and what he has already battled through. If he can’t go, he’s severely injured.
Going into Sunday night’s Game 3, no one was giving the Celtics even a slight chance to keep the game close. They’d be in Cleveland, without their best player and most expected them to tuck their tail and submit. They hadn’t given anyone any reason to think they would fight so far, so all you could hold onto was hope.
In the early stages, that hope looked like it was for fools only. Cleveland ran out to an 11-point lead after one quarter and a 16 point halftime lead. Even in the third quarter, the lead for the Cavs grew to 21 at one point. But the Celtics battled back. They showed that they had some Celtic pride and that they weren’t the type of team that would just bow down to LeBron. They ultimately cut the lead to 87-82 heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter of play I saw the Celtics scratch and claw like never before. They were out there hustling and just leaving it all out on the court against a Cleveland team that had probably gotten a bit complacent. Not only did the Celtics show up big time when it counted, but LeBron James shrunk. LeBron was 0-for-4 with two turnovers, one rebound, one assist, and no points over the final 16:31 of the game. He was held to 11 points, which is the fifth time in his career that he’s scored less than 15 in a playoff game. He pulled one of those old school LeBron games where he just looked like he didn’t want to be there and then he got testy with reporters postgame. It was awesome to watch.
Anyway, the Celtics tied the Cavaliers at 95 on one of Marcus Smart’s seven three-pointers before trading baskets all the way down the stretch. After Kyrie Irving tied the game at 108 with a layup, the Celtics would have the ball with 10.7 seconds to go. In what has been a pretty awful NBA postseason, this game was amazing. Brad Stevens called a timeout and drew up one of his patented after timeout plays for the final shot. The Celtics found Avery Bradley for a three-pointer that bounced for a few seconds on the rim before going with .1 seconds remaining. Boston was alive and had handed Cleveland their first loss of the playoffs. They had also guaranteed a Game 5 back in Boston.
It’s great to get a win in this series after so many people doubted this team. It is frustrating though that they didn’t show this kind of toughness in the first two games and that Isaiah is still out. Some people tried to make the argument that the Celtics are better off without Thomas because of this win, but that’s so stupid that I can’t even begin to address that.
The win was the biggest upset in the NBA playoffs in 20 years as the Celtics were 16.5-point underdogs. It will be interesting to see how the game affects the confidence of Boston going forward. I said Cavaliers in 5, which I still feel pretty good about, but I’d love to see the Celtics take another game and make Cleveland sweat a little bit. Game 4 will be Tuesday night and tip off is at 8:30.