Cavaliers preview: Cleveland looks to steal series lead over Celtics in Game 3

The Cleveland Cavaliers are undefeated at home this postseason, hoping to keep the momentum in their favor as they host the Boston Celtics for Game 3.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Two
Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Two / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers tied their Eastern Conference Semifinals series at one game apiece after defeating the Boston Celtics in a 118-94 victory at TD Garden on Thursday. Cavs forward Evan Mobley and guard Caris LeVert each scored 21 points. Mobley, who added 10 rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes of play, hit his first postseason three-point shot since a Game 2 win over the Orlando Magic with a wide-open attempt against Celtics center Luke Kornet.

Mobley's performance caused a stir among experts and onlookers alike. Since his draft night in 2021, the Cavaliers have hoped to see him take a leap offensively and become a star alongside Donovan Mitchell. Though his Game 2 performance signaled growth as an elite center in the NBA, the Cavs must find ways to capitalize on the game and see if Mobley can consistently produce with aggression and confidence against the league's leading team.

Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell led Cleveland with 29 points and eight assists. The second-year Cavalier seemingly forgot how to miss from beyond the arc, hitting five of his seven attempts from the three-point line as he patrolled the perimeter for catch-and-shoot and pull-up opportunities. The Cavs hit 46.4 percent of their three-point attempts, their highest mark of the postseason and best since they hit 48.5 percent of their long-range shots against the Charlotte Hornets to cap off the regular season.

Will the Cavs' newfound momentum be enough to take a key victory in Game 3?

The Cavs will travel back to Cleveland to face Boston in a crucial Game 3 matchup on Saturday. They will need to use their home-court advantage to keep their playoff hopes alive against the top team in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics finished the 2023-24 regular season with a 27-14 record on the road and a 10-5 road record after the All-Star break. They went 2-0 on the road in their first-round matchup with the Miami Heat, including a 104-84 victory in Game 3 at the Kaseya Center.

Cleveland ended the regular season with a home record of 26-15, including an impressive 8-0 home stretch during January. It started to slow down after the All-Star break after claiming a 7-6 home record but defeated the Orlando Magic in much-needed Game 1 and Game 5 wins at home during the first round of the playoffs. The Cavs claimed a close victory over the Celtics at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in early March behind a combined 44 points from Cleveland forward Dean Wade and center Jarrett Allen. Boston still ended up with the regular season series win with its back-to-back victories at home in December.

Mitchell has averaged 29.2 points per game during Cleveland's nine games in the playoffs. The figure puts him just behind Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey for sixth place among playoff scorers. He scored 30 points or more on four different occasions during this year's postseason, highlighted by a 50-point outing in a Game 6 loss to the Magic. He will need to continue to play an important role on the Cavs' offense as they face a Celtics squad with three 20-point-per-game post scorers in guard Jaylen Brown, forward Jayson Tatum and guard Derrick White.

Brown and Tatum are averaging a combined 47 points per game in their two games vs. the Cavs. The duo combined for 44 of Boston's 94 points in its Game 2 loss. Brown missed all six of his tries from the three-point line, while Tatum went two-for-five from beyond the arc.

Cleveland must continue to find options off the bench after LeVert's 21-point outing on Thursday. The former Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers guard played a key role in Cleveland's offense, continuously finding opportunities on the interior with strong on-and-off-ball cuts. He will need to continue to show his fearlessness on the interior at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse when the Cavs face a Celtics squad that is allowing an average of 44.3 playoff points in the paint per game, putting them just behind the New York Knicks at about 10th place among teams who made the playoffs.

The Cavs will tip off against the Celtics at 8:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

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