No. 2 Celtics vs. No. 3 76ers - Boston leads 3-0
The Celtics needed overtime in Game 3, but their big plays down the stretch allowed them to take a 3-0 series lead over Philadelphia.
Despite making a number of mistakes at the end of regulation and in overtime, the Sixers had multiple chances to win Game 3. Now, they find themselves in a position of desperation, as NBA teams are 0-129 when trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series. Despite playing against history, head coach Brett Brown and starting forward Robert Covington remain confident about the team's ability to turn the series around.
Covington, who averaged 9.4 points per game in the Sixers' first-round series win over the Heat, struggled in Game 3. The 6-9 sharpshooter was 0-for-8 from the field and finished with one point. To get its first win of the series, Philadelphia desperately needs Covington's contributions - the team connected on just nine of its 30 3-point attempts in Game 3.
Ben Simmons bounced back from a one-point Game 2 performance with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in Game 3, but made a few of the aforementioned critical errors late. He and Joel Embiid (22 points and 19 rebounds) led the way for the Sixers, and will need to deliver in a similar manner. Expect Embiid to come out with increased aggression with aims to get to the free throw line.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has continued to do a masterful job of leading his team. Boston's execution of Stevens' game plan down the stretch in Game 3 proved to be the difference.
On the floor, All-Star Al Horford has led the way for the Celtics this series. In Game 3, Horford hit the go-ahead layup with 5.5 seconds remaining in overtime, stole an errant pass on the next play and sank both free throws when he was intentionally fouled. The 10-year veteran is averaging 17.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the series.
Horford's play has directly impacted the young trio of Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown in the series. His poise and leadership on the floor has allowed them to excel in high-pressure situations.
A Boston sweep is dependent on the scoring efforts of Tatum, Rozier and Brown in Game 4.
No. 1 Raptors vs. No. 4 Cavaliers - Cleveland leads 3-0
After LeBron James' buzzer-beating floater gave Cleveland a 3-0 series lead over the Raptors, the Cavs will look to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for a fourth consecutive season.
Cleveland led by as many as 17 in Game 3, but the Raptors showed great resolve in staging a comeback and tying the game late. James' game-winner was a demoralizing blow to a valiant team effort.
Now, Toronto looks to avoid being swept by James and the Cavaliers for a second consecutive season. A loss would also make the Raptors the first-ever No. 1 seed to be swept in the second round.
Dwane Casey decided to go small in Game 3, replacing forward Serge Ibaka with second-year guard Fred VanVleet in the starting lineup. Ibaka, who has struggled this postseason, finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four blocks before fouling out. Kyle Lowry led the way for Toronto, scoring 27 points and dishing out seven assists; Raptors rookie forward OG Anunoby added 18 points while dealing with the task of guarding James.
In order to force a Game 5, the Raptors will need more from DeMar DeRozan, who scored eight points on 3-of-12 shooting in 28 minutes of action in the loss.
James' excellence has been on display throughout this postseason, and Game 3 was a continuation of the trend. The three-time Finals MVP finished with 38 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals in the win. Cleveland also benefited from the contributions of Jeff Green (11 points), George Hill (12 points), Kyle Korver (18 points) and Kevin Love (21 points and 16 rebounds).
Love has seemingly returned to form, averaging 19.7 points and 13.3 rebounds this series after posting averages of 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds in the first round. He and JR Smith, who did not score in Game 3, will be the keys to a Cavaliers' sweep. Look for Smith to bounce back from a scoreless performance in a big way.
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