Celtics Notes: Brad Stevens Pushes Right Buttons In Game 3 Win Vs. Cavs

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May 22, 2017

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens pushed the right buttons for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With Isaiah Thomas sidelined with injury, Stevens opted for Marcus Smart at point guard in the starting lineup. This decision paid immediate dividends, as Smart’s career-high 27 points helped Boston earn a 111-108 comeback victory on Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

It was a back-and-forth affair in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, capped off by Avery Bradley’s game-winning 3-pointer. Bradley will get the glory for hitting the big-time bucket, but the Celtics guard credited his head coach for drawing up a great play.

“I think it was the play called by Brad Stevens,” Bradley told reporters after the game. “He did a great job of putting us in the right position, forcing them to have to help and not be able to switch. Al Horford made a great screen and Marcus Smart made an even better pass, and I was able to knock down a shot. It was a great play by Brad.”

Bradley’s shot hardly was Stevens’ only play-calling gem. The Celtics coach used timeouts to draw up several big plays for Boston, including a Horford isolation and Jonas Jerebko shot from the wing. Stevens has developed a reputation for being a master of after-timeout plays, which was on full display in Game 3.

“I think that one of the good things about this team is we’re able to believe in whatever Brad draws up,” Bradley said after the game. “If it’s a good play, bad play, whatever it is, we all believe in it. I think that always helps because you’re able to just read and react after that. One of the plays that he drew up when Jonas Jerebko hit the shot, it was for me to lay the ball up. But it was a play that I knew that if they helped, Jonas would be wide open, and he was able to knock down his shot. 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.”

Stevens even garnered praise after the game from LeBron James, who noted how the Celtics head coach keeps the opposition on its toes.

“He has so many different wrinkles, misdirection, thinking the ball is going this way, he has a misdirection going the other way,” James said. “You’ve got to kind of keep your head on a swivel. He has a lot of packages. So you can plan for a few, but then he might run something you’ve never seen before.”

Stevens was at his best Sunday night and helped his team get back in a series that many believed was already over.

Here are some other notes from Celtics-Cavaliers.

— James struggled mightily down the stretch, as he went scoreless in the fourth quarter. It also was the first time in his postseason career that he squandered a 20-plus point lead.

— Bradley has found great fortune from beyond the arc in the 2017 NBA playoffs. His game-winner in Game 3 marked his 22nd uncontested 3-pointer of the postseason, tying him for the most in these playoffs with Stephen Curry.

— In the 10 minutes in which Smart, Bradley and Jerebko were on the floor together, the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 40-17.

— With the loss, Cleveland’s 10-game winning streak comes to a close.

— A bulk of Smart’s points came when it mattered most, as he scored 19 in the final 18 minutes of the game.

— Cleveland was a 16.5-point favorite entering the game. The upset is the largest in the NBA this season and the largest in the last 20 postseasons.

Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images

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