Mitch's Sports Report: Smart Is Money As Celtics Beat Cavs In The Most Unlikely Win Of The Playoffs

May 22, 2017

So here's what the Boston Celtics were up against in game three of the eastern conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers last night: They had been blown out in the first two games of the series, on their home court, including a 44-point loss in game two. Cleveland had not lost a single game in the post-season, a 10-0 run. Game three was on Cleveland's home court. The Celtics' best player, Isaiah Thomas, suffered a serious hip injury, and he's out for the rest of the post-season. And entering the third quarter in game three, Boston trailed by 21 points. Final score from Cleveland: Celtics 111, Cavs 108.

Yes, I had to check that twice myself, too. But three things happened to bring about that final score. Marcus Smart, who started at guard in place of Thomas, had the game of his life, finishing with a career high 27 points, which included seven three-pointers. Lebron James essentially took the night off, scoring a mere 11 points after treating the Celtics defense like orange road pylons in the first two games in Boston. And Avery Bradley's three point shot at the end of the game hit the back rim, bounced up, hit again, bounced again, and somehow fell into the cylinder with one tenth of a second left on the clock for the most improbable win of the playoffs so far.

So the Celtics will not get swept in this series, and while it would be fun to be pollyanna about this win, now that the series stands at Cleveland up two games to one, and say Boston has a chance to come back and prevail, let's not be silly. Lebron is not going to have another night like he did last night. Even with Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics were overmatched in this series. Bradley made a nice shot, but that was the very definition of the lucky bounce. Cleveland is going to win this series and get a rematch of last year's final against Golden State. It's just going to be that way. But it is really nice that the Celtics were able to do what no team had been able to, to this point in the playoffs, and that's make Cleveland feel what it's like to lose.

In the NHL playoffs, the Ottawa Senators certainly know what it's like to lose, now on the brink of elimination after getting blown out by the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins 7-0 in the steel city yesterday. Just as Ottawa had done in game three, which must feel like a lifetime ago to the Senators, the Penguins scored four first period goals and never looked back. Seven goals by seven different players. A perfect three for three on power play chances. 21 saves by Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray, who really could have knitted a sweater while in between the pipes and still won the game. The Senators have to hope they can put this one behind them and stave off elimination in game six on their home ice tomorrow night if there's any chance of a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993.

In Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox needed a win to avoid a four game sweep out in Oakland and it was Eduardo Rodriguez to the rescue. The young lefty pitched brilliantly, going eight innings and striking out eight in Boston's 12-3 win. First baseman Mitch Moreland homered for a third straight game and Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez had three hits apiece in the win. Rodriguez has now won his last two starts and it's good to see a starter other than Chris Sale be dominant on the hill for a Red Sox team that needs better production in that department and on offense as well. The win moves the Sox back into third place in the A.L. east, a half game ahead of Tampa Bay and four back of the first place Yankees.

The Yankees were able to avoid an improbable three game sweep at the hands of those pesky Tampa Bay Rays, winning 3-2 in St. Petersburg yesterday thanks to a go-ahead home run by Brett Gardner and an amazing full extension, diving, back-handed grab at the warning track in right by rookie Aaron Judge, who's proving he can do more than hit mammoth home runs. Judge's highlight reel catch preserved the Yankees 3-2 lead and made a winner of CC Sabathia, who's now won back to back starts for the first time since June of last year. Chris Archer was the tough luck loser for Tampa, giving up the three runs but striking out 12 along the way.

The Toronto Blue Jays also kept the brooms at bay, beating the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 behind a 12-strikeout performance by Marco Estrada and a three-run homer by Devon Travis in the first.

And continuing the trend of teams that could have been swept but weren't, the L.A. Angels pounded the NY Mets 12-5, with Mike Trout doing much of that damage. Trout homered and doubled and drove in three runs in the sweep-saving win for the Halos. C.J. Cron had a lot to say as well, with a grand slam, minimizing the damage the Mets did with home runs by Matt Reynolds , Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. Tommy Milone took the loss for the Mets.

And there will be no three peat to the Final Four for the Middlebury women's lacrosse team, which fell in the division III NCAA Tournament 8-4 to top-ranked College of New Jersey, in the regional final yesterday. The 8th ranked Panthers finish their season at 16-5 with the loss.