The Boston Celtics continue to do the improbable and deal the Cleveland Cavaliers its first loss in the 2017 NBA Playoffs right smack in the Quicken Loans Arena, to inch closer in their Eastern Conference Finals matchup, now 2-1.
The victory was nothing short of astounding for the Celtics, considering the painful development of losing All-Star Isaiah Thomas for the rest of the series to a hip injury, and being humiliated by the Cavaliers in Games 1 and 2. But aside from the morale-boosting 111-108 win, Boston should get excited with this sign of life in what seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle in the form of LeBron James and company.
If anything, Game 3 provided the blueprint on how to defeat Cleveland.
40 points from BOS starting backcourt
If we told you that the C's are better off without 'IT Time' in the earlier rounds, you might have given us a death stare. Already elite defenders, the unlikely 1-2 punch of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart has shown in the regular season that it can pick up the slack offensively, and they did so in Game 3. Smart drained a career-high 27 markers on 7-of-10 three-point shooting, while Bradley did this:
Jonas Jerebko must not miss
The seldom-used forward only suited up for a quarter's worth of playing time, but went a perfect 4-of-4 from the field during Boston's decisive run to finish with 10 points and five rebounds. The Celtics will need more of these unexpected contributions from their other utility players, be it Gerald Green or Jaylen Brown, if they hope to extend the series.
Limit James to 15 points
After tying Michael Jordan's record of eight straight playoff games with 30 points or more, The King didn't look anywhere near his supernova form with an uncharacteristic 11 points (4-of-13 shooting), six rebounds, six assists, and six turnovers. Whether it was just an off night for James or a case of coach Brad Stevens doing a flawless job with defensive assignments, the latter should pray for more of this kind of game due to this fact:
Cavs should outright choke
Shots suddenly weren't falling in the second half for Cleveland, particularly Kevin Love (28 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Kyrie Irving (29 points, 7 assists), who teamed up to break the game open early on, and lead by as much as 21 points. After making 14 shots from beyond the arc during the first 24 minutes, the Cavaliers had only two the rest of the way, which was incredibly mind-boggling as they were playing in the comfort of their home floor.
The return of Larry Olynyk
The hero of BOS-WAS Game 7 actually had a decent game, putting up 15 points, three rebounds, and a couple of assists. But if by any chance each one of the scenarios above materialize and Boston indeed forces a rubber match, they will need the spirit of Celtics legend Larry Bird to possess Kelly Olynyk once more to pull off the ultimate shocker in front of the basketball world.