Cleveland Cavaliers 3-0 Atlanta Hawks | Eastern Conference Finals
The Cavaliers returned to Cleveland for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Hawks with a 2-0 advantage in the series. The Cavs looked to use the deafening cheers of the rambunctious Cleveland crowd to their advantage. Even with all the excitement, LeBron and the Cavs got off to a slow start. LeBron missed his first ten shots and didn’t record a point until 8:05 left in the second. With his shot not falling, LeBron put scoring in the back of his mind and was laser focused on benefiting his team in other ways, whether it be driving and dishing to teammates for open shots on the outside or fighting down low for some boards. The Cavs were down by three at the end of one period. In a back and forth second quarter that showed little signs of any team having the capability of pulling away, the Cavs needed a spark or some kind of inspiration to get them going. That spark came abruptly with seconds left in the first half. Matthew Dellavedova and Al Horford created a ruckus after both were fighting for position for a rebound. Horford was issued a flagrant 2 and was ejected from the game, while Delly was given a technical foul. The teams went into the half with a little extra fuel poured on their motivational fires. The question was, whose play would it affect the most? LeBron was sure invigorated. With the Cavs facing a one-point deficit to start the second half, he shook off his shooting troubles and racked up 15 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds in the 3rd quarter alone, numbers many players would love to have for an entire game. His outstanding 3rd quarter also came with a magnificent dunk in which he jammed the ball over two defenders’ outstretched arms. As LeBron started to heat up so did the rest of the team. They engineered a ten point lead in the 4th.
LeBron Steals for the Breakaway Slam
However, the Hawks were able to claw their way back to eventually tie the game and force overtime at 104 apiece. LeBron, though visibly showing signs of pain due to his array of injuries, made several big time plays in OT. After Jeff Teague drained a step-back three to give Atlanta a 111-109 lead, he made a three-pointer with 36.4 seconds left to put the Cavs up by one, and then got a runner to fall over Paul Millsap. With the score 114-111 the Hawks had the final possession. Shelvin Mack had two three-point opportunities to tie the game and force double OT after a Millsap offensive rebound. Although, he was unable to convert on both and the W went to the Cavs.
LeBron James Drives for the Major Facial on Muscala
In Kyrie Irving’s second straight missed game, the Cavs’ guards produced well. J.R. Smith put up totals of 17 points and 10 rebounds, Delly had 17 points, and Iman Shumpert had 15 points and 7 rebounds. The three of them alone made 11 threes. When the buzzer sounded, out of pure exhaustion from giving every last ounce of energy he had out on the court and willing himself to play through his immense list of injuries, LeBron fell to his knees. After a moment, he regrouped and celebrated the victory with his teammates. His performance in this game was a historical one.
LeBron James' Legendary Performance Seals Game 3
Ensuing his slow start, James went on to score 37 points, grab 18 rebounds, and 13 assists. This incredible performance shattered the record books. It was the first time in NBA history that a player had at least 37, 18, and 13 in a playoff game. It was his 12th career playoff triple-double, which passed Jason Kidd for second all-time behind Magic Johnson who has 30. It was his 75th career 30-point playoff game, which is tied for 3rd in playoff history. And last but not least, he passed Karl Malone for 6th all-time in playoff scoring. "Started out the game just out of character, out of rhythm. But I had to make a difference. It's a great feeling to be able to make plays for your teammates. I'm happy I was able to make a few,” said LeBron about his performance. Game 4 will be played on Tuesday night at 8:30 on TNT.