So now the Cavs lead the series 2-1 and the Celtics will get at least one more game in Boston.
Cleveland blew chances to set a new playoff record for consecutive wins (14) dating to Game 5 of last year's Finals and become the fourth team in history to start the playoffs 11-0.
He had one Sunday night, a dud that opened the door for the Boston Celtics to score the most improbable victory of the playoffs to this point. They were one day removed from their best player, Isaiah Thomas, being shut down for the remainder of the postseason due to a hip injury.
The Cavaliers' "Big Three" of James, point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love combined for just 13 points in the third quarter after having 47 in the first half. It's better for the Cavaliers, now 9-1 in the playoffs, to experience overcoming a postseason loss now rather than in the NBA Finals. The three-time Champion looked unlike himself off the court and on, posting a very unlike-LeBron line of 11 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, with 6 turnovers and a 4-for-13 shooting night.
Cleveland's Kyrie Irving tries to drive past Celtics center Al Horford during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday in Cleveland. To add insult to injury, James got called out by a heckling fan - in his own arena, no less. "We only had two fast-break points, so they neutralized what we wanted to do".
Thomas did not travel with the team to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday.
"I feel like you have to have some type of adversity in order to be successful", James said. "That's what I always think, when people of his stature or people like him, you've got to play confident the whole night and play aggressive". "You let a team like that grab momentum you nearly knew a shot like that was going in". Of the Cavs' 70 field goal attempts, 39 were three-pointers. Even when they got good shots, they couldn't finish them, which needs to happen for a team with championship aspirations. Averaging 32.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game on 55.4 percent shooting despite Sunday's aberration, James is nearly sure to bounce back Tuesday night. "We have to regroup and get back to playing desperate basketball".
But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue expected Boston to battle to the end.
"Thank God it's bouncing on the rim because that's taking time", Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. The Cavs had been playing a glorified game of H.O.R.S.E. with the Warriors, who are undefeated and can complete a sweep of San Antonio on Monday night. Should Cavaliers advance, this will be the seventh season in a row that James will have played in an NBA Finals.
"I was just pretty poor", LeBron said. "We just kind of get it done".