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LeBron James struggles in Cavs’ Game 3 meltdown

The Cleveland Cavaliers are no longer perfect in the playoffs. On Sunday night, the Cavaliers returned home in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, armed with a 2-0 series lead. Everyone assumed that with Isaiah Thomas out for the postseason with a hip injury, the Celtics would go quietly in a sweep.

Instead, even down 21 points with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Boston rallied to win on a last-second Avery Bradley 3-pointer, taking the contest, 111-108. The Celtics were able to give Cleveland its first defeat of the postseason, and did so while LeBron James had one of his worst performances in history.

James, who has been nothing short of brilliant in every game thus far in the playoffs, scored just 11 points in the loss. It was uncharacteristic to say the least of a player known for going on large runs at the end of games in the spring. Instead, James scored a measly three points in the second half.

Predictably, talk radio and talking heads will be screaming about the effort and wondering what happened. Does James have a problem? Do the Cavaliers have to believe they are in trouble? Are the Celtics back in the series even with Thomas sidelined?

The real answers are no, no and no. LeBron is likely to bounce back and score 40 points while pulling down 13 rebounds and dishing out 11 dimes on Tuesday night in Game 4. By extension, the Cavaliers will be just fine, because if James does anything like that stat line suggests, Cleveland will be resting starters by the time the fourth quarter begins.

As for the Celtics, give head coach Brad Stevens and his team some credit. Most would have quit after finding out that Thomas was lost, especially given the fact Boston had lost the first two games of the series at home. The Celtics could have given up down 21 points in the third quarter, but they didn’t. Boston showed strength that nobody knew it had and rallied to win in dramatic fashion on the defending champion’s court. That matters.

But it doesn’t matter in terms of keeping the Celtics’ season alive. This is going to come to a close, likely in five games, with the Cavaliers going to the Finals for the third consecutive year. Still, this will pay dividends in the future for a team that has both a very talented roster and the first-overall pick in the NBA Draft.

As for this season, LeBron James and his team will be fine. The overreaction will be absurd, but sadly predictable in this age. For the next few days, it will be chaos. After Game 4, Cleveland will rock once more.

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