Celtics stun Cavaliers with Game 3 comeback to keep series alive

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Johnson got the start in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals but only scored two points in nine minutes as the Celtics earned their first win of the series.

The defending National Basketball Association champion Cavs, which lead the series 2-1, held a 77-56 lead with 6:38 to go in the third quarter.

Boston has to rebound by committee, and they did that in this game, but part of that was a seeming disinterest from Cleveland on doing the work.

The surprise loss means Cleveland leads the best-of-seven series 2-1 ahead of Game Four in Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday.

"I didn't have it", James said afterward, and that was no understatement.

Celtics star Isaiah Thomas is out for the remainder of the postseason because of a hip injury, and the Cavs had lost just one game at home to an Eastern team in the playoffs dating to 2015.

The Cavs led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter Sunday, but they shot 2-for-17 from 3-point range in the second half.

What Lue won't dismiss is his team's inability to match Boston's fight, something that helped the Celtics rally from a 21-point deficit in the second half.

However, Thomas' replacement, Marcus Smart, scored a career-high 27 points and handed out seven assists, and Bradley had 20 points.

"We knew that while Friday was a 44-point disaster, it was worth one (game)". Thomas, acquired by Boston at February's deadline that year, had given the Celtics the offensive jolt they so desperately needed to take the next step in their building process. "So we got back together".

"You obviously hear people saying that it's all about how you respond, and we don't feel like people believed in us and counted us out", Bradley said. Let us regroup and all the narrative and everything that was going on, let's regroup and let's get back to playing desperate basketball, which they did tonight. If it's going to happen, let it happen now.

"No, no, they didn't mix up the coverage", James said. Sometimes you get gassed early, but he's done a good job of staying in shape and staying the course. "Those are all plays that Brad makes, and then it's our job to go out there and make sure that we make the next right play".

James, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, is top 10 in several all-time playoff categories. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762), Kobe Bryant (5,640) and Shaquille O'Neal (5,250) are third, fourth and fifth. "But we definitely understand that this team is not going to quit, they're going to fight, they're going to compete".

ESPN Staff Writer, Chris Forsberg quoted Bradley in his recent article saying, "One of the plays that he [Brad Stevens] drew up when Jerebko hit [a late] shot, it was for me to lay the ball up".

  • Julie Sanders