CLEVELAND--A positive can come out of losing a game--albeit in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals?
The Cavaliers won their first 10 playoff games of 2017--exactly the same number they won to open the 2016 playoff run on their way to an NBA Championship. The Cavs had been running on all cylinders and were taking care of business, especially after a 44-point drubbing of the Celtics in Boston in Game 2. Although not playing as well as they did in the second game, the Cavs looked as though they were sailing to a 3-0 lead in Game 3 when they had a 21-point lead in the third quarter.
There also was the fact that LeBron James had arguably his worst game of the 2017 postseason with just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting, including 0-of-4 from three-point range. He also missed three free throws and had six turnovers. If James had just made a trey or the free throws that he has been making throughout the playoffs, the Cavs likely would still have hung on for a win in Game 3. James had scored at least 30 points in the previous eight games.
Despite James' poor game, the Cavs stopped doing what they had been doing and James said it might help the team re-calibrate.
"I think it's great -- what happened hurts," James said after the loss. "It's a loss in the postseason. But I'm glad it kind of hurt, that it happened the way it did -- let our foot off the gas a little bit, didn't keep the pressure on them like we have been accustomed to."
In other words, it's better to stumble now being up 2-1 than later in this series or a possible upcoming NBA Finals series.
The ultimate goal is to win a championship and it wasn't expected that they'd go all the way to the NBA Finals undefeated, especially after stumbling at the end of the regular season, finishing 10-14 in the final portion of the schedule and losing the top seed in the Eastern Conference to the Celtics.
"Some adversity is all part of the postseason,” James said. “I feel like you have to have some type of adversity in order to be successful. If it was going to happen, let it happen now; let us regroup.
"Let us regroup and all the narrative and everything that was going on, let’s regroup and let’s get back to playing desperate basketball, which (Boston) did (Sunday). So we’ve got to be a lot better, for sure.”
After sweeping the first two rounds in 2016 over Detroit and Atlanta, the Cavs won the first two games against the Raptors before dropping the next two for a 10-0 start. They won the final two games in last year's Eastern Conference Finals to advance to the NBA Finals in six games. They won the championship in seven games over Golden State. Overall, the Cavs record in the 2016 postseason was 16-5. Thus far in 2017, they are 10-1--the same record as last year at this point.