There was no Isaiah Thomas on the floor for the Boston Celtics on Sunday, but all that mattered was a bouncing, game-winning 3-pointer by Avery Bradley that left 0.01 left on the clock as the visiting Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 111-108.
Boston looked much better as a defensive matchup against Cleveland with Thomas out. LeBron James scored just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting, adding six rebounds and six assists. Kyrie Irving led the way with 29 points for the Cavaliers, and Kevin Love dropped 28 points including 7-of-13 from 3-point range.
LeBron looked pedestrian all night, unable to affect the game the way he had in the first two contests, where the Cavaliers star seemingly was able to get any shot he wanted. James was stationary on offense in the final three minutes on offense, deferring to his teammates and hanging out by the 3-point line as they tried to operate among themselves.
The Celtics took the lead late, with both teams exchanging shots until the final seconds. Cleveland was able to grab the lead with 10 seconds to go thanks to a wild, slashing drive by Irving.
Then it was Boston’s turn to go to work, and they had an incredible ATO play drawn up to get Bradley a 3-pointer. Of course, it also took JR Smith completely blowing his assignment for this to happen.
What does this mean for the series? Not much. It took a herculean effort by the Celtics that will be hard to duplicate for three more wins. Marcus Smart scored 27 points, going 8-of-14 from the field including an eye-popping 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. Bradley added 20 points, and Jae Crowder scored 14 points to go with 11 rebounds.
LeBron had to look terrible and Smart had to have a career game for the Celtics to win it, and even then they only did so as time expired. Watching the game, it may have appeared that James wanted his teammates to help pull them through, and indeed they shot a solid percentage both from the field and from beyond the arc. But their effort wasn’t enough down the stretch to get the win, so I would put my money on the LeBron from Game 1 and 2 returning Tuesday for Game 4.