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May 12, 2024 2:18 pm

Back on track, Celtics chase commanding series lead on Cavs

Jayson Tatum

The Boston Celtics will seek back-to-back road victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday when the teams play Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

After splitting the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Boston, the top-seeded Celtics took a 2-1 series lead by earning a 106-93 road victory Saturday night. That bounce-back victory came after the fourth-seeded Cavaliers won Game 2 in Boston, 118-94.

“We were just trying to get a win, understanding that we didn’t play as well as we wanted to in Game 2,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who tossed in a team-high 33 points during the Game 3 victory. “And it was a great test and opportunity for us to come out and respond and play better and play harder and all those things.”

Boston’s Jaylen Brown added 28 points in Game 3, when the Celtics shot 51.2 percent from the field and made 13 of their 34 attempts from 3-point range.

“I think we just need everybody to be on the same page and everybody to come out with the right effort,” Brown said. “That’s 85 percent of the battle right there. We come out, we play hard, and then we’re on the same page and the rest will take care of itself. We got enough talent in the locker room to beat teams.

“But if we’re not on the same page and we’re not playing hard, those are when we get ourselves in trouble. So making sure, before the game at film and shootaround, talking to everybody, touching everybody, letting everybody know that, ‘Hey, we’re not here to play around.’ We didn’t come to Cleveland for the weather, so let’s go.”

After allowing 28 points in the opening quarter Saturday, Boston held Cleveland to 65 points the rest of the way. Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points to lead the Cavaliers but appeared to aggravate a left knee injury in the fourth quarter. Mitchell left the court with 1:19 to play and walked straight to the locker room.

Boston led by nine at halftime at 57-48 then pushed the lead to 23 by scoring the first 14 points in the third quarter.

“(The 14-0 run) changed the game,” Michell said. “Give them credit. They came out with a sense of urgency. It’s tough to come back from that. They came out with an intention.”

Mitchell made 7 of 12 3-point attempts, but the rest of the Cavaliers shot 5 of 24 from long range.

“I just think we didn’t hit the same shots we did (in Game 2),” Mitchell said. “For us, just being able to finish … we missed a lot of shots at the rim, myself included, missed a lot of shots that I think we just got to make.”

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, the Celtics seem to do their best work on the road. Boston is 3-0 in road playoff games this season, and 17-7 in road playoff games in the last three seasons. The Celtics have a 14-14 record in home playoff games during that same three-year stretch.

“It’s the playoffs,” Brown said. “Anything can happen, especially if you come out flat. We’ve got to do a better job of that. We can’t think like this series is going to go like last series. We’ve got to come out and have the same defensive effort going into Game 4, and that’s just the urgency we need to have.”

–Field Level Media

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