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Game 3 Preview: Cavaliers vs. Celtics

Basketball Insiders previews Game 3 in the Cavaliers-Celtics series.

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#2 – Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James had 30 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 points on Tuesday night to help the Cleveland Cavaliers open up to a 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics. James and Irving remained the two most effective players on the team during the 99-91 victory and combined to be the Cavs’ only scoring in the fourth quarter as they sealed the win.

The Cavs came back to win despite being down by as many as nine points in the second quarter. Cleveland finished off the period by going on a 15-5 run to take a 51-50 lead going into halftime. They would go on to lead for the entire second half and withstood the Celtics’ late rally. The Cavs held a rebounding advantage again in Game 2, but this time out-rebounded the C’s on the defensive glass rather than the offensive side.

Game 2 had a similar feel to that of Game 1 where the Celtics got off to a better start than the Cavs, but ultimately it was Cleveland that took over just before halftime and for the majority of the second half. On Tuesday, it was James who dominated late as he scored 15 of his 30 points in the final quarter to deny the Celtics a chance to come back. Irving proved to be the primary scoring option in Game 1 while James played more of a facilitator role but the latter took control of Game 2. The Cavs are a tough matchup due to how talented they are and their depth will continue to give the Celtics fits during the rest of the series.

#7 – Boston Celtics

While the Cavs received a majority of their production from James and Irving, the Celtics turned in a more-balanced attack with five players scoring in double digits. Point guard Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 22 points, while Jared Sullinger added 14 off of the bench.

The Cavs held a 15-7 advantage on the offensive glass in Game 1, but it was Boston that held the advantage in Game 2, out-rebounding the Cavs 13-12. Despite the improvement on the offensive end, the Cavs held a 47-39 advantage in total rebounds. The Celtics started off quick again, but as we saw in Game 1 the Cavs were able to come back to take control. Despite going up by 14 points over the Celtics in the second, Boston was able to cut that lead down to just two points at the 6:58 mark in the fourth quarter.

The common theme in the first two games in this series is the fight that the Celtics have shown. They cut a 20-point lead on Sunday down to six points and cut a 14-point deficit in Game 2 down to just two points. The Celtics have proved that they can compete with the Cavaliers at times, but it’s going to take a complete all-around effort to win games. The shots were falling in Game 1 but the rebounding was off, and then in Game 2 the rebounding was there but the shots weren’t falling as they converted on just 39 percent of their attempts from the field.

Who Wins Game 3?

If the Celtics are going to win a game or two, it’s going to have to happen on their home court. You can bet that the TD Garden is going to be rocking on Thursday night to greet the Cavs and the Celtics are going to need to feed off of that energy to have a chance. They’ve been close in the first two games but have just needed that extra push to get them over the top. They’ll have that extra help playing in front of their home crowd and will find a way to steal Game 3 in a close match on Thursday night.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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