LeBron James’ clutch pass to Chris Bosh highlights what makes LeBron, Heat ‘special’

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LeBron James drove toward the basket, faced the threat of a double team and kicked the ball to Chris Bosh in the right corner.

After missing the shot to close Game 5 against the Pacers, Bosh made the 3-pointer in Game 2 against the Spurs. It put the Heat up 95-93 with 1:18 left – the last of 17 lead changes.

“When the ball is in my hands, I’m going to make the right play,” LeBron said. “…I got a lot of confidence in my teammates, and they got a lot of confidence in me, and we live with the results no matter what happens.”

Asked about his superstar’s willingness to pass in crunch time, Erik Spoelstra smiled wide before the question was even completed.

“It’s the theater of the absurd when you’re dealing with what plays he makes at the end of a game,” Spoelstra said. “He makes the right basketball play.

“We know the process is right. Make or miss, it opens up for noise from outside.”

That noise got fairly loud after Bosh missed against the Pacers – more questions about LeBron’s killer instinct. I thought we had moved past that discussion, but as long he keeps passing in those situations, his critics come out of the woodwork.

1. LeBron passes in clutch

2. Teammate misses shot

3. LeBron faces criticism

4. Rinse, wash and repeat

The only way to break the cycle is at step No. 2, and his teammates not only want to do their part, they’re ready – because they understand LeBron will pass at any moment.

“Knowing how LeBron is, you always have to be poised and ready to shoot the basketball,” Bosh said. “He’s the most unselfish player I’ve ever played with.”

Opponents know this, too. That’s why the Spurs typically didn’t double team LeBron when he got hot in the second half.

“You can go double him if you want,” Gregg Popovich said. “He’s a pretty good player. I’m going to guess he’s going to find the open man.”

When San Antonio moved to double on that late possession, Kawhi Leonard chasing him into the paint and Tim Duncan staying home to protect the rim, LeBron found Bosh.

Take that play for granted if you wish. It was the right play and probably should be more common late in games.

But Bosh understands how rare that pass – the one LeBron has proven he’ll make every time in that situation – is for players of LeBron’s caliber.

“That’s what makes this team special, because your best player is willing to sacrifice his shot, a good shot for a great shot,” Bosh said. “And you just have to commend him for that.”

PBT Extra: Who has upper hand in NBA Finals now?

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.