CLEVELAND — LeBron James showed up again, but this time so did his teammates.
And they showed up early and often.
With every starter contributing, the Cavs led from start to finish in dominating the Boston Celtics 116-86 Saturday in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Celtics, who are 37-0 lifetime when they jump to a 2-0 lead in a series, are still up 2-1, with Game 4 set for Monday at 8:30 p.m. at The Q.
“We were really good,” said James, who finished with 27 points on just 12 shots while adding five rebounds and 12 assists.
The Cavs, who led by 19 in the first period, by 23 in the second and by 28 in the third, weren’t a one- or two-man show this time, as every starter and one reserve scored in double figures.
Kevin Love was solid once again in finishing with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four assists, while point guard George Hill was aggressive from the start in putting up 13 points, three boards and two assists.
Cleveland also got 11 points, five rebounds and two assists from J.R. Smith, who was scoreless in Game 2; 14 points off the bench from Kyle Korver, who was 5-for-5 from the field and 4-for-4 on 3-pointers; and 10 points from Tristan Thompson.
“We had our focus,” James said. “Offensively and defensively, we made plays.”
The Cavs, who went 14-for-57 on 3-pointers in losing the first two games by a combined 38 points, made 17 of 34 from deep in this one, while the listless Celtics went 6-for-22.
No Cleveland player attempted more than 12 shots, as James went 8-for-12 and spent the rest of the night setting up his teammates, which included great passes to Thompson and Larry Nance.
“He’s the best in the game at facilitating,” Love said.
Cleveland’s defense was equally good, as Boston shot just .392 (29-for-74), got outrebounded 45-34, trailed 23-15 in assists and had quarter scoring totals of 17, 24, 22 and 23 points.
“It was a really good defensive game for us, from front to back,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Offensively, we were moving around a lot more and had a lot of assists. ... I thought we played an all-around game tonight, defensively and offensively.”
Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown, who had 23 points in each of the first two games, was a non-factor most of the night — he had two points at halftime — and finished with 10 points, while center Al Horford, defended extremely well by Thompson, had just seven.
“We made them make extra passes, we made them make extra dribbles,” James said. “We were flying around.”
Up 20 at halftime, the Cavs had no third-quarter swoon in this one. They pushed their lead to 26 on a lob to James early in the period and were never seriously threatened after that.
“We can’t play like we played tonight no matter where we play,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens, whose team fell to 1-5 on the road in the playoffs. “If we would have played in Boston like that, we would have gotten beat. The valuable lesson is that Cleveland outplayed us. We’ve got a game on Monday and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Cavs led 61-41 after a sensational first half that saw them make 9 of 17 3-pointers and hold Boston to .400 shooting (14-for-35).
James had 19 points at that stage, but he didn’t have to force things because he was getting help from his teammates and the Cavs were locked in defensively.
That began with their superstar, who played as hard at that end of the court as he did on offense.
“I have a huge responsibility on this team,” the four-time league MVP said. “I have to score, rebound, defend and make sure our guys get involved. And I’m OK with that.”
The Cavs got exactly the start they needed, playing excellent defense and spreading the offense around while racing to a 20-4 lead with five minutes left in the opening period. At that point, the Celtics had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) and were fortunate they weren’t down by 20 points or more.
Hill got involved early, scoring 11 first-quarter points as Cleveland took a 32-17 lead.
“They were great,” Stevens said of the Cavs. “We were clearly not the harder-playing, more-connected team. Cleveland was and they deserve all the credit.”
Cavaliers 116, Celtics 86
BOSTON (86): Tatum 6-10 6-8 18, Morris 2-8 4-4 9, Horford 2-4 2-2 7, Rozier 5-12 2-2 13, Brown 3-8 2-2 10, Ojeleye 1-5 0-0 2, Nader 1-5 0-0 2, Yabusele 0-1 1-2 1, Baynes 3-7 0-0 7, Monroe 4-5 2-4 10, Smart 2-9 3-4 7. Totals 29-74 22-28 86.
CLEVELAND (116): James 8-12 8-10 27, Love 4-12 4-4 13, Thompson 3-5 4-4 10, Hill 4-11 2-4 13, Smith 3-8 2-2 11, Green 2-4 2-2 6, Nance Jr. 4-4 0-0 8, Osman 1-1 1-2 3, Zizic 0-2 2-2 2, Calderon 0-1 0-0 0, Clarkson 3-11 0-0 9, Korver 5-5 0-0 14. Totals 37-76 25-30 116.
Boston 17 24 22 23 — 86
Cleveland 32 29 26 29 — 116
Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boston 34 (Horford 7), Cleveland 45 (Love 14). Assists—Boston 16 (Smart 6), Cleveland 23 (James 12). Total Fouls—Boston 25, Cleveland 23. Technicals—Morris.
3-Point Goals: 6-22, .273 (Brown 2-3, Baynes 1-1, Horford 1-2, Morris 1-3, Rozier 1-4, Nader 0-1, Tatum 0-1, Yabusele 0-1, Ojeleye 0-2, Smart 0-4).
Team Rebounds: 8. Team Turnovers: 15 (14 PTS).
Blocked Shots: 4 (Baynes 2, Brown, Tatum).
Turnovers: 15 (Brown 3, Smart 3, Monroe 2, Rozier 2, Baynes, Horford, Morris, Nader, Tatum).
Steals: 4 (Smart 2, Ojeleye, Rozier).
Technical Fouls: Morris, 3:59 third.
3-Point Goals: 17-34, .500 (Korver 4-4, James 3-3, Smith 3-4, Clarkson 3-7, Hill 3-9, Love 1-4, Calderon 0-1, Green 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 8. Team Turnovers: 14 (14 PTS).
Blocked Shots: 3 (James 2, Clarkson).
Turnovers: 14 (Love 4, James 3, Korver 2, Nance Jr. 2, Smith 2, Zizic).
Steals: 9 (Nance Jr. 3, James 2, Green, Hill, Love, Osman).
Technical Fouls: None.
A—20,562 (20,562). T—2:17.
Officials—James Capers, Josh Tiven, Zach Zarba
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