BOSTON — LeBron James had to carry more of the offensive load in Game 3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-round playoff series against the Celtics because teammate Kyrie Irving scored just 13 points after totaling 56 in the first two games.
James responded with a double-double — 31 points and 11 rebounds — to propel the Cavs to a 103-95 win at TD Garden on Thursday night, giving Cleveland a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Here’s an in-depth look at James’ performance.
James started the game on the attack with six early points. He didn’t score in the last five minutes of the opening quarter, but he did enough to help the Cavs earn their largest lead (31-25) after 12 minutes in the series.
James had just 11 points entering the final minute of the second quarter, but he scored a quick six in the last 38 seconds as part of Cleveland’s 12-0 run to end the first half. That gave James 17 points, eight rebounds and two assists through the first two quarters.
This windmill dunk after a steal was James’ best moment of a third quarter during which he scored seven points.
James was aggressive to start the fourth quarter, with two baskets in the first minute. He finished the final quarter with seven points, giving him a 31 total in 41:58 of playing time.
The Cavaliers silenced the raucous TD Garden crowd with a perfect finish to the second half, which ended with James nailing a step-back jump shot over quality defense from Celtics forward Jae Crowder.
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN
The Celtics did a decent job contesting James’ drives in the first quarter.
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If you double-team James, he will find the open man. In Game 3, the open man usually was Kevin Love in the corner for a 3-point shot.
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CROWNING THE KING
Overall grade: B-plus
It wasn’t James’ best game, but he took and made the pressure shots when the Cavaliers needed a bucket. They also desperately needed James’ rebounding because starting center Timofey Mozgov was a non-factor with just six boards. Boston did a much better job of boxing out and tied Cleveland with 45 rebounds. James’ defense wasn’t bad, either, and he tallied a game-high four steals.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images