Cleveland Cavaliers guard LeBron James may have missed his first 10 shots, including all nine in the first quarter. Kyrie Irving might have been sitting out for the second consecutive game.
At the end of the night, it didn’t matter.
Riding yet another awe-inspiring overall performance from a hobbled James, Cleveland defeated the Atlanta Hawks 114-111 in overtime to take a 3-0 series lead. By virtue of this win, it’s almost guaranteed that Cleveland will take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series in the NBA Playoffs. Both the Warriors and Cavaliers now possess that seemingly insurmountable lead.
Most of the talk during Sunday’s Game 3 matchup surrounded a scrum between Hawks center Al Horford and Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova in the second quarter.
Horford received what has to be considered a phantom flagrant 2 and was immediately ejected from the game.
From that point on, James returned to form. After starting 0-for-10 from the field, the two-time NBA champion scored 37 points, brought down 18 rebounds and dished out 13 assists for a triple-double performance. Overall, James shot 14-of-37 from the field after missing his first 10 shots.
Dellavedova (17), Iman Shumpert (15), Tristan Thompson (10) and J.R. Smith (17) all joined James in double figures.
Despite having to play without Kyle Korver for the entire game and missing Horford for the second half, Atlanta kept this game close throughout. And when Kent Bazemore hit two free throws with under six minutes left to tie the game at 95, the conference’s top seed had some hope. When Atlanta took a four-point lead with less than two minutes left, that hope grew. And when the game was sent to overtime, many figured Atlanta’s momentum would bring it back to within one game in the series.
That did not happen.
LeBron James exhausted after the win. pic.twitter.com/HOFbotmLFR
— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) May 25, 2015
Playing injured (cramps), LeBron put up the final five points of the game to help the Cavaliers pull out a close victory against an incredibly gritty Hawks team.
Now that one of the best games of this season’s NBA Playoffs is over, both conference final matchups currently stand at 3-0. At this point, the only real drama here is when each series will end.
News & Notes
After yet another awe-inspiring performance, James is averaging 27.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game in the playoffs.
James is the first player in NBA Playoff history to record at least 37 points, bring down 18 rebounds and dish out 13 assists.
Playing without two All-Stars, Kyle Korver and Al Horford, Atlanta outscored Cleveland by five points in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
Photo: USA Today Sports