Sunglasses & Advil:
If you accidentally put money on Boston, 16.5-point underdogs, to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers at home without their best player, Isaiah Thomas, you are a very rich man. The Boston Celtics overcame a 21-point deficit in the third quarter, the loss of Thomas, and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love seeing the basket as a the ocean in the first half to pull off statistically the greatest upset in the last 20 years in the NBA. How’d they do it?
Of all people, Marcus Smart. He has this uncanny ability to step up biggest when the lights are at their brightest. Before Thomas was “King in the Fourth” (make sure that’s “in,” not “of.” Gotta give my man respect), Smart was “King of Lost Causes.” If I’ve ever seen a lost cause, it’s what I thought this game would be entering it. Everyone had low expectations due to the way Cleveland spanked Boston in the first two games . . . in Boston. Coming into Cleveland, there was no way that Boston would do much of anything. Through the first three quarters, this seemed to be the case. Kevin Love could not miss, chucking up seven 3-pointers that somehow fell down. Kyrie Irving was equally excellent, and it felt like LeBron James’ quietness on offense was just a precursor to a monster second half.
Thankfully for Boston, Irving and Love cooled off, that monster second half from James never came, and Marcus Smart (27 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists) channeled the powers of Stephen Curry. Jonas Jerebko truly became the Swedish Larry Bird, and the Celtics emerged victorious on this Avery Bradley shot that seemed to stopped time:
Avery Bradley hits game-winner to complete one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history pic.twitter.com/UHHdcd5Ahb
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) May 22, 2017
It’s fitting that the Cavs arrogantly came out in the second half playing the Monstars theme from “Space Jam.” I mean, did they not remember how the movie ended? The Monstars didn’t win.
With Isaiah Thomas (hip) still injured, the Celtics will head into Game 4 hoping that an ounce of momentum carries over. For the Cavs, it’s only inevitable until LeBron James wakes up. Boston will hope that his one-game dabble into mediocrity and mere humanity (11 points!) extends beyond one game. Until then, though, let’s enjoy what was the first close game so far through six Conference Finals games. I don’t know about you, but nail-biters are much better than 44-point blowouts.
The Cavaliers lead the Celtics 2-1.
When the Sun falls, then the Moonlight:
With Kawhi Leonard out of Game 4, this game is all but a foregon- actually, never mind. After what I just saw in Cleveland, anything is possible. It’s definitely not likely, but the San Antonio Spurs will try to pull out a win on their home court. Gregg Popovich hasn’t gone down 3-0 since the 2010 Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Phoenix Suns. It’s hard to see his team quitting, but it’s also hard to see them closing the talent gap, especially with Kawhi Leonard. I’m not going to say it’s impossible for them to win; it’s just not likely.
The Spurs can do the world a favor and make this interesting. LaMarcus Aldridge still hasn’t responded much to pleas from Popovich and Spurs fans worldwide to take over. After all, San Antonio signed him for this specific reason: scoring. Without Leonard in the lineup, the team has looked to him, and instead of looking back at the team, he’s looked lost. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors are flying through these games with ease. Look for them to continue their dominance.
If nothing else, at least the Spurs can cling to the first 24 minutes of the series when they were up by 20 and Kawhi Leonard was healthy. Good times.
GSW @ SAS | 9 PM ET on ESPN | Warriors lead the Spurs 3-0
Lines of the Night:
Marcus Smart: 27 points (8-for-14) | 7 3-pointers | 7 assists | W
Avery Bradley: 20 points (8-for-23) | 3 rebounds | 1 game-winner | W
Kevin Love: 28 points (8-for-16) | 10 rebounds | 3 blocks | L
Kyrie Irving: 29 points (10-for-15) | 2 rebounds | 7 assists | L
LeBron James: Lol.