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On time, on target: LeBron, Cavs pound Celtics in Game 3

CLEVELAND (AP) Before taking the floor, LeBron James stood in the hallway with his teammates outside Cleveland's locker room and pounded his chest with both hands.

The Celtics got thumped next.

James had 27 points and 12 assists, Kevin Love added 14 rebounds and the Cavaliers looked like a different team on their home court, tightening the Eastern Conference finals with a 116-86 victory in Game 3 over Boston on Saturday night.

Outplayed during two losses in Boston, the Cavs used a three-day break in the series to regroup and re-grip this series. With James leading the way, they built a 19-point lead in the first quarter, pushed it to 30 in the second half and overpowered the Celtics, who fell to 1-5 on the road in the postseason.

Any discussion of Cleveland's demise is premature. Kyle Korver made four of the team's 17 3-pointers, six players scored in double figures and the Cavs, who have spent the season seeking chemistry and cohesion, were connected defensively.

''Even when things broke down, we just covered for one another,'' James said. ''We made them make extra passes. We made them make extra dribbles. We were flying around, and I just happened to be one of the guys on the floor that wanted to fly around as well.''

Game 4 is Monday night before the series returns to Boston.

Jaylen Brown was in foul trouble all night and scored just 10 for the Celtics after averaging 23 in the first two games. Jayson Tatum scored 18 and Terry Rozier 13 for Boston, which couldn't match Cleveland in any aspect.

''They took it to us,'' Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. ''Point blank: They just outplayed us.''

Only 19 of a possible 300 teams have ever overcome a 2-0 deficit in the playoffs. James and the Cavs, who previously did it in 2007 and again in 2016 while winning the NBA title, took the first step toward a third comeback.

To return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year, the Cavs have to win four of five and re-write Boston's illustrious history. The Celtics are 37-0 when they win the first two games in a series.

The Cavs came in wanting to play faster and be more physical with the younger Celtics, who were the aggressors in Games 1 and 2.

Not this time.

''The toughest team sets the rules,'' Rozier said. ''They came out aggressive from the jump and never looked back. We've got to play aggressive from the rip. Tonight, we were all over the place, playing too fast and doing things we didn't want to do.''

The Cavs needed more from point guard George Hill after two poor performances (8 points, 1 assist) in Boston. Hill responded with a driving layup to start the game and drained three 3-pointers in the first quarter as Cleveland wasted no time taking control.

Hill finished with 13, J.R. Smith 11 - they were outscored 41-3 in Game 2 - and Cleveland's supporting cast played so well that James was only on the floor for 37 minutes.

Stevens was confident his team would play better on the road than earlier in these playoffs, but the Celtics were shaky early, committing four turnovers and shooting 2 of 10 while the Cavs opened a 27-11 lead.

James said earlier Saturday the fact he has twice rallied from 2-0 deficits in the postseason offered no relief.

''There's nothing about the playoffs that's comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer,'' he said.

Summer might not be as close as it once seemed.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Seeking to become the sixth No. 2 seed to win the East in eight years. Boston was a No. 4 seed when it advanced to the finals in 2010. ... Fell to 3-8 in playoff games in Cleveland, the most by a Cavs opponent at the Q. ... Stevens was relieved to learn that Boston legend Bill Russell was recovering after a hospital stay brought on by dehydration. Russell won 11 NBA titles with the Celtics. ''He's the ultimate basketball winner,'' Stevens said. ''The way he impacted winning, the unselfishness of a teammate, what he stood for off the floor - everything about him.''

Cavaliers: James needs six field goals to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356) for the most in postseason history. ... Cleveland has won six straight playoff games at home. ... Improved to 14-6 vs. Boston in the playoffs.

DOWN BROWN

The Cavs focused their defense on slowing Brown, and it worked. He was 3 of 8 from the floor and never found his flow after getting two early fouls.

''They were denying me the ball, and when I did get it, it was in positions that I'm not comfortable in,'' he said. ''Give credit to Cleveland. They were physical and we settled for jumpers too much.''

DOWN TIME

The long layoff between Games 2 and 3 revived the Cavs.

''It was three days of stewing on Game 2,'' Korver said. ''It probably did something good in us. It's frustrating to have to wait that long for another game. We were able to put in some new things on offense, too.''

ROAD KILL

Before the game, Stevens downplayed his team's road issues, saying there was a ''small sample size.''

It got a little bigger, and a little more troubling. Still, he won't focus on Boston's road woes.

''In my 11 years as a head coach, I probably haven't talked about road and home five times with our team,'' he said. ''It's about how you play between the lines. Because I think if you start talking about that, then you find excuses in both places. We can't play like we played tonight no matter where we played. If we would have played in Boston like that, we would have gotten beat.''

FAMILY TIES

Stevens has deep Cleveland roots, but he's slowly converting family members to pull for Boston's teams.

His parents are from Northeast Ohio and his wife, Tracy, is from suburban Rocky River. Before the game, Stevens was asked what happens to all the Cavs, Browns and Cavaliers gear he gets as gifts.

''My 7 1/2-year-old nephew was offered 10 extra-credit points (in school) if he wore anything regarding Cleveland yesterday, and he went all green,'' Stevens said. ''And three years ago, I think he was all Cleveland stuff. So we're making strides with him. But yeah, we have a large contingent. Maybe they'll get some of those (Game 3 giveaway) yellow shirts and pass them around to some people who haven't completely converted to rooting for the Celtics yet.''

UP NEXT

Game 4 is Monday night.

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Key Players
A. Horford
42 C
L. James
23 SF
36.9 Min. Per Game 36.9
27.5 Pts. Per Game 27.5
9.1 Ast. Per Game 9.1
8.6 Reb. Per Game 8.6
48.9 Field Goal % 54.3
48.9 Three Point % 54.3
78.7 Free Throw % 73.2
  Defensive rebound by Larry Nance Jr. 0:20
  Abdel Nader missed reverse layup 0:23
+ 1 Ante Zizic made 2nd of 2 free throws 0:36
+ 1 Ante Zizic made 1st of 2 free throws 0:36
  Shooting foul on Greg Monroe 0:36
  Defensive rebound by Ante Zizic 0:53
  Abdel Nader missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:56
  Defensive rebound by Guerschon Yabusele 1:05
  Jordan Clarkson missed 3-pt. jump shot 1:08
  Bad pass turnover on Greg Monroe, stolen by Cedi Osman 1:21
  Defensive rebound by Greg Monroe 1:22
Team Stats
Points 86 116
Field Goals 29-74 (39.2%) 37-76 (48.7%)
3-Pointers 6-22 (27.3%) 17-34 (50.0%)
Free Throws 22-28 (78.6%) 25-30 (83.3%)
Total Rebounds 42 53
Offensive 6 8
Defensive 28 37
Team 8 8
Assists 16 23
Steals 4 9
Blocks 4 3
Turnovers 15 14
Fouls 25 23
Technicals 1 0
7 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST
27 PTS, 5 REB, 12 AST
1234T
away team logo Celtics 2-1 1724222386
home team logo Cavaliers 1-2 32292629116
Team Stats
away team logo Celtics 2-1 101.4 PPG 41.7 RPG 21.2 APG
home team logo Cavaliers 1-2 101.1 PPG 41.4 RPG 19.2 APG
Key Players
J. Tatum SF 13.9 PPG 5.0 RPG 1.6 APG 47.5 FG%
L. James SF PPG RPG APG FG%
Top Scorers
J. Tatum SF 18 PTS 1 REB 1 AST
L. James SF 27 PTS 5 REB 12 AST
39.2 FG% 48.7
27.3 3PT FG% 50.0
78.6 FT% 83.3
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Tatum 31 18 1 1 0 1 1 2 6/10 0/1 6/8 0 1 21 -11
T. Rozier 27 13 3 2 1 0 2 3 5/12 1/4 2/2 0 3 19 -20
J. Brown 20 10 2 1 0 1 3 5 3/8 2/3 2/2 0 2 12 -21
M. Morris 25 9 5 0 0 0 1 3 2/8 1/3 4/4 1 4 13 -28
A. Horford 29 7 7 4 0 0 1 2 2/4 1/2 2/2 0 7 21 -23
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Tatum 31 18 1 1 0 1 1 2 6/10 0/1 6/8 0 1 21 -11
T. Rozier 27 13 3 2 1 0 2 3 5/12 1/4 2/2 0 3 19 -20
J. Brown 20 10 2 1 0 1 3 5 3/8 2/3 2/2 0 2 12 -21
M. Morris 25 9 5 0 0 0 1 3 2/8 1/3 4/4 1 4 13 -28
A. Horford 29 7 7 4 0 0 1 2 2/4 1/2 2/2 0 7 21 -23
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
G. Monroe 16 10 5 0 0 0 2 2 4/5 0/0 2/4 1 4 13 -7
A. Baynes 23 7 6 1 0 2 1 3 3/7 1/1 0/0 4 2 16 -12
M. Smart 26 7 0 6 2 0 3 2 2/9 0/4 3/4 0 0 18 -19
A. Nader 6 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1/5 0/1 0/0 0 1 2 -1
S. Ojeleye 20 2 0 1 1 0 0 1 1/5 0/2 0/0 0 0 5 -7
G. Yabusele 11 1 4 0 0 0 0 2 0/1 0/1 1/2 0 4 5 -1
X. Silas - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Hayward - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Irving - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
S. Larkin - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Bird - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Allen - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Gibson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Theis - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 234 86 34 16 4 4 15 25 29/74 6/22 22/28 6 28 145 -150
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
L. James 37 27 5 12 2 2 3 3 8/12 3/3 8/10 1 4 57 +31
G. Hill 29 13 3 2 1 0 0 3 4/11 3/9 2/4 0 3 21 +24
K. Love 29 13 14 4 1 0 4 3 4/12 1/4 4/4 2 12 32 +24
J. Smith 26 11 5 0 0 0 2 3 3/8 3/4 2/2 0 5 14 +20
T. Thompson 22 10 7 0 0 0 0 1 3/5 0/0 4/4 3 4 17 +22
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
L. James 37 27 5 12 2 2 3 3 8/12 3/3 8/10 1 4 57 +31
G. Hill 29 13 3 2 1 0 0 3 4/11 3/9 2/4 0 3 21 +24
K. Love 29 13 14 4 1 0 4 3 4/12 1/4 4/4 2 12 32 +24
J. Smith 26 11 5 0 0 0 2 3 3/8 3/4 2/2 0 5 14 +20
T. Thompson 22 10 7 0 0 0 0 1 3/5 0/0 4/4 3 4 17 +22
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
K. Korver 20 14 2 0 0 0 2 2 5/5 4/4 0/0 0 2 14 +8
J. Clarkson 18 9 1 0 0 1 0 3 3/11 3/7 0/0 1 0 11 +6
L. Nance Jr. 21 8 6 3 3 0 2 3 4/4 0/0 0/0 1 5 21 +5
J. Green 18 6 0 1 1 0 0 2 2/4 0/2 2/2 0 0 9 +5
C. Osman 6 3 0 1 1 0 0 0 1/1 0/0 1/2 0 0 6 +1
A. Zizic 4 2 2 0 0 0 1 0 0/2 0/0 2/2 0 2 3 +2
J. Calderon 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/1 0/1 0/0 0 0 0 +2
R. Hood - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
O. White - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
K. Perkins - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 234 116 45 23 9 3 14 23 37/76 17/34 25/30 8 37 205 +150