Cavs clobber Celtics to trim deficit to 2-1

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James on his way to a dunk in the 116-86 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday.
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James on his way to a dunk in the 116-86 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Not only did the Boston Celtics miss the chance to go 3-0 up - a lead no National Basketball Association (NBA) team have squandered, but they were also thrashed in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday.

But Terry Rozier insisted that Cleveland's wire-to-wire 116-86 victory at Quicken Loans Arena was just the wake-up call the Celtics needed after two double-digit wins in Boston.

"We needed to get our butts whooped, come back to reality and take care of business on Monday," the guard said ahead of Game 4, which is also in Cleveland. "I feel like we needed this to get us back, to get us ready for Monday."

That is when the Cavaliers will try to even things up at 2-2. They trimmed the deficit in the best-of-seven series to 2-1 on the back of LeBron James' 27 points and 12 assists.

They raced to a 12-4 lead midway through the first quarter, which they ended leading 32-17. By then, James and George Hill had already scored more than 10 points apiece, and half a dozen Cavaliers players finished in double digits.

Kyle Korver added 14 points off the bench. Hill and Kevin Love scored 13 apiece, JR Smith chipped in 11 and Tristan Thompson scored 10. Cleveland out-rebounded Boston 45-34, holding the Celtics to 39.2 per cent shooting.

"I have a huge responsibility for this team," James said.

"I have to score, I have to rebound and defend, make sure guys get involved, and I'm okay with that. I'm absolutely okay with that.

"I also have to inspire my teammates to be better. They answered the call tonight, and they need to answer the call at another time (in Game 4) on Monday."

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics, who dropped to 1-5 on the road this post-season, with 18 points.

Jaylen Brown, who scored 23 points in each of the first two games, finished with 10 points and five fouls. He did not score until the second quarter.

Rozier scored 13, but connected on just five of 12 shots from the floor as the Cavaliers stepped up their defensive effort.

"It was really a great defensive game for us," said Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue.

"I thought offensively we moved it around a little bit more, had a lot of assists. I thought JR and G-Hill did a good job of setting the tone early, being aggressive, playing with more pace, more force."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2018, with the headline 'Cavs clobber Celtics to trim deficit to 2-1'. Print Edition | Subscribe