LeBron James started his night early, testing his injured elbow and shooting abilities prior to his Cleveland Cavaliers facing the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series Friday evening.
The warm-up may have been just what James needed as he exploded for 38 points, including 21 in the first quarter, to lead the Cavaliers over the Celtics 124-95 and take a 2-1 series lead in front of disgruntled fans at Boston’s TD Garden.
It was Cleveland’s largest margin of victory in a road playoff game in franchise history, while it was largest margin of defeat at home in Boston’s storied playoff history. The game was all but over after the first quarter as James came out determined to silence those who questioned his ability to play with a sore elbow. Cleveland led 36-17 after the first quarter, fueled by James, whose opening quarter featured an array of deep jump shots and highlight reel finishes at the basket.
Cleveland head coach Mike Brown said his team needed to come out aggressively at the start of the game after Boston won Game 2 by 18 points, and his request was answered. Former Washington Wizard Antawn Jamison backed James’ efforts with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Washington D.C. native Delonte West added 14 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Boston will need to brush the loss away quickly if they hope to rebound for Game 4 on May 9. Many members of the media jumped on the Celtic bandwagon after Boston’s Game 2 victory, in which Boston led by as many as 25 points. But after their Game 3 rout, it appears the ball is back in Cleveland’s court.