Celtics get back to what works

Game 3 of their playoff series wasn’t a test of their will, or their mettle, or whatever inner quality that Game 2 called into question.

In winning Game 3 in Cleveland on Saturday night, the Celtics displayed better defense, better shot selection and, most importantly, less self-satisfaction.

Somehow, someway, and/or someone, told the Celtics they could well defeat themselves if they insisted on wallowing in smugness.

Or maybe they have figured out that they have won nothing yet, and therefore have no right to feel smug.

That much passed a great test in Game 3. They brought a 57-48 lead into the locker room at halftime and in the first 107 seconds of the third quarter built it into a 65-48 lead. 

The Cavs made a run of their own later in the quarter, but the Celtics kept their hands on the steering wheel. They were in charge of the game for the duration.

They did it by playing passionately on defense and by making Cavaliers pay for their occasional ambivalence rebounding.

There is no secret weapon. When a basketball team works vigorously defending and takes charge rebounding, its chance of winning the game is very high.

Jayson Tatum looks to have tamed his instinct to take every 3-pointer available to him by driving to the hoop. He and Jaylen Brown worked inside and combined for 61 points, 22 rebounds and nine assists.

When Jrue Holiday is generally ignored by the opposition and supplements the Jays with 18 points, the offense is engaged.

Ah, if only the game had been at the Garden, after which fans who left with a few minutes on the clock in the Game 2 blowout were chastised.

With 4:58  left in the game, the camera caught a fair number of fans heading for the exits. 

Cleveland had a 111-87 lead. The Celtics made five substitutions: Svi Mykhailiuk, Jaden Springer, Oshae Brissett, Jordan Walsh, and Neemias Queta took the floor. 

One goody-two-shoes capped her critique with, “Way to stand in and support your team, Bostonians.”

Apparently, the reporter doesn’t recognize garbage time when its foul aroma rises.

Or she lives in Pleasantville, where folks watch only black-and-white TVs, hang out at malt shops and wave little banners reading “Go,Team!”

As Boston fans know, the beer taps had long since been locked when the Maine Celtics were sent in to mop up. 

Besides, you get more beer for your dollar outside the Garden.