Boston outscored the Cavs 61-42 in the second half and can level the series in Cleveland on Tuesday.
He was certainly invested enough to jump into the middle of the post-Game 3 celebration - virtually, at least. In three games against the Celtics, the Cavs have outscored Boston by 64 with James on the court and been outscored by 10 when he sits.
CLEVELAND (AP) - Kyrie Irving gritted his teeth, tightened up his left sneaker and hopped to his feet. The Celtics couldn't either.
Apparently the fan was heckling LeBron, and LeBron answered with "What have you ever done?" I don't flop. I had to tell him. "He was born for these moments".
If LeBron James was even a shell of his usual self in Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers would be up 3-0 in the conference finals and beginning to size up the Golden State Warriors for what would be an NBA Finals rematch.
James, the reigning NBA Finals MVP, is top 10 in several all-time playoff categories.
With four shooters on the floor, Smart has the room he needs to attack his defender 1-on-1, which is why the Cavaliers have LeBron James guarding him.
But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue expected Boston to battle to the end. After a frightful loss at home in Game 2, most wrote off the series as another easy sweep by the dominant Cleveland Cavaliers team.
It wasn't long ago that Cleveland seemingly had major question marks after sputtering down the stretch and losing the No. 1 seed to Boston. "You always come around when we lose, I swear". Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs' morning shootaround. Irving stayed on the floor and finished the game, but with a day off between games there will be interest in how tender his ankle is at tipoff. Nothing was keeping him out.
"Everybody had to step up their game tonight especially with one of our brothers down", Smart said.
And while James was criticized in some circles for not doing more, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was understandably cautious in his analysis. Stevens said Thomas may consult with two additional specialists. "We were getting good shots on offense and playing with great objective, and on defense I thought we were much better than the score indicated". And it's making us tougher. "We look forward to the challenge". With six seconds left on their shot clock, Kevin Love connected on a contested 3-pointer from in front of Cleveland's bench to push the Cavs ahead by nine with 5:25 left.
"My adrenaline is still going", he said. "He made seven threes, made a couple of deep threes, and then I thought he got some threes off of offensive rebounds". "We knew that Friday [Game 2] was a disaster", said Stevens. "We knew that Friday (Game 2) was a disaster".
Marcus Smart tried to no avail.
"No, no, they didn't mix up the coverage", James said. "We had to do what we had to do".
It's possible Thomas could undergo surgery on his hip.
Boston got off to its best start in this series after a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder put the Celtics ahead 18-11. Before the playoffs began, the Celtics were 22-5 at home since January 1. They were unstoppable through the postseason. Boston dominated the regular season as they clinched the Eastern Conference, with a record of 53-29. She was born almost five months early.
James, Irving and Love were the only three Cavs players to make double digits.