Even though the Boston Celtics have a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, don’t be surprised if that lead quickly disappeared.
Game 3 was the opposite of the first two, with Cleveland firing on all cylinders while Boston was uncharacteristically poor on both ends of the floor. What could easily be passed off as a “fluke game”, I think should be a very real concern.
First, the Cavaliers won by 30 points. These blowout losses don’t just happen by mistake, or because the officials missed a couple calls. It is very possible that following the first two games, LeBron James and the Cavaliers started to feel out Boston’s defense, and will now be able to take advantage more than they did previously.
Secondly, Boston has been dreadful on the road this postseason, despite having one of the best away records in the NBA in the regular season.
This is partly due to the loss of Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart—for some of Milwaukee series—but the young age is also to blame. Unless Cleveland has a complete lapse of focus in Game 4, expect the series to head back to Boston knotted at two games apiece.
With the weak supporting cast and terrible defense, it’s easy to forget that Cleveland still has the best player in the world. The man who’s dominated the Eastern Conference for a decade should never be slept on, and you can bet that James will consistently be a threat to any team.
That said, this year’s Boston Celtics have stood back up after being knocked down time and time again. Head coach Brad Stevens seems to always have a blueprint, and it is repeatedly executed by the young guns in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as veterans Al Horford and Marcus Morris.
If the Celtics can play impressively at the TD Garden like they have all season, we could be in for a very interesting—and long—road to the Finals.