In Game No. 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James shot 4 of 13 from the field, totaled 11 points, brought down six rebounds, had six turnovers, and registered a meager plus/minus of +1. Meanwhile, Boston Celtics role player Jonas Jerebko (who has averaged just 9.9 minutes per game in the 2017 postseason) knocked down a perfect 4-4 of his shots, tallied 10 points, grabbed five rebounds, recorded no turnovers, and finished with a plus/minus of +22.
James earned his stat line over 45 minutes played in the game. Jerebko clocked just 13 minutes on the night. It was a monstrous performance absolutely nobody saw coming.
The Sweden native provided a much needed unforeseen boost for Boston. Down two games to none in the series against Cleveland, head coach Brad Stevens was willing to try anything to get his Celtics team to compete against the reigning NBA Champions. By inserting Jerebko into the contest, who has been used sparingly throughout this postseason, he gave the Green Team exactly what they needed.
Jerebko nailed a 22-foot jumper to put the Celtics ahead with 30.3 seconds left in the game, a shot which converted a 2-for-1 opportunity that later allowed Avery Bradley the chance to win the game on his last second shot. However, it was more than just the big shots and stat sheet contributions he turned in which made Jerebko’s Game No. 3 performance so critical. It was also the fight he brought to the Celtics’ squad that helped turn the tide on the Cavaliers 21-point lead.
Jerebko simply battled out there against the Cavaliers with a refreshing fire that hasn’t been seen by any Boston player to date in this series. He “tossed” Kevin Love to the ground and stood over him afterwards calling Love out for flopping. A little while later Jerebko twice banged into Deron Williams who was deliberately stopping in front of him. Williams drew a foul after the second hit, but Jerebko got his revenged with a hard screen that Williams came up from clutching his shoulder in pain. Jerebko played the way this entire Celtics team should have been playing the whole time: unafraid and ticked off that nobody expected them to legitimately challenge Cleveland.
The bottom line is the Celtics need more of this. Cleveland is far more talented then Boston is, with Isaiah Thomas or not. The only way for the Celtics to beat a team like this is to play their hearts out. Jerebko set a heck of an example in Game No. 3, hopefully there will be more of that to come as this series progresses.