Irv­ing and James lead the way as Celtics crash

New Straits Times - - Sport -


KYRIE Irv­ing and LeBron James com­bined for 76 points as the Cleve­land Cava­liers bat­tled to a 112-99 vic­tory over the Bos­ton Celtics on Tues­day to move within one game of a place in the NBA Fi­nals.

The win gives Cleve­land a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven se­ries and leaves them firmly on track for a third con­sec­u­tive NBA Fi­nals show­down against the Golden State War­riors.

Cleve­land, stunned by Bos­ton in Game Three af­ter romp­ing two blowout wins in the open­ing two games of the Eastern Conference se­ries, looked to be head­ing for an­other shock as the Celtics dom­i­nated the first half.

Bos­ton pow­ered into a 29-19 first quar­ter lead and main­tained their 10-point cush­ion through to half-time, lead­ing 57-47 at the break.

But as ten­sion among Cleve­land’s home fans mounted at the Quicken Loans Arena, it was left to Irv­ing to ride to the res­cue with a sen­sa­tional, mo­men­tum­chang­ing dis­play in the third quar­ter.

Irv­ing piled on 21 points in the third pe­riod as Cleve­land turned their 10-point half-time deficit into an 87-80 lead at the end of the third quar­ter. Irv­ing even­tu­ally fin­ished with 42 points.

“Com­ing out at half-time, I just wanted to be ag­gres­sive and lead my guys and leave it all out there on the floor,” Irv­ing said.

“We un­der­stand the goal out here and we want to ac­com­plish some­thing big­ger than our­selves. It’s go­ing to take a full 48-minute game to do it.”

James, de­ter­mined to bounce back af­ter a poor 11-point haul in Game Three, then stead­ied the Cleve­land nerves in the fourth quar­ter, bring­ing the Cava­liers home for the win as Bos­ton’s brave ef­fort came up short.

James, who fin­ished with 34 points, was joined in dou­ble fig­ures by Kevin Love, who scored 17 points with 17 re­bounds and five as­sists.

James, Irv­ing and Love were the only three Cavs play­ers to make dou­ble dig­its.

But it was Irv­ing who was the un­de­ni­able star of the show for his spell­bind­ing third quar­ter mas­ter­piece that trans­formed the game.

“The kid is spe­cial,” James said. “He was just wait­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to blos­som. I’m just happy and blessed that when I de­cided to come back that I was able to help him blos­som.

“I’m just happy to be able to sit back, with four fouls, and see him do what he’s al­ways been built to do. He was born for these mo­ments.”

Love mean­while re­vealed that the Cava­liers had not pan­icked at half-time when they trailed by 10.

“We’ve been in that po­si­tion be­fore,” Love said. “It’s just an ef­fort all around. We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot of play­off min­utes who’ve been in sit­u­a­tions like that be­fore.

“But while I can sit here and say that, Kyrie Irv­ing was very spe­cial tonight.”

Bos­ton, miss­ing the in­jured Isa­iah Thomas, had four play­ers in dou­ble fig­ures, with Avery Bradley scor­ing a lead­ing 19 points.

Game Five takes place in Bos­ton to­day.

Irv­ing said Cleve­land would ben­e­fit from hav­ing been put un­der pres­sure by Bos­ton in Game Four.

“We need to hit ad­ver­sity in or­der to grow,” Irv­ing said. “The only thing that mat­ters now is to get a win back in Bos­ton.”

Asked to give a rea­son for Bos­ton’s sec­ond half prob­lems, Celtics coach Brad Stevens had a sim­ple an­swer: “Kyrie Irv­ing and LeBron James. That’s the an­swer. Kyrie Irv­ing was in­cred­i­ble.

“We played as well as we’d played in the en­tire play­offs in the first half and then for var­i­ous rea­sons that didn’t hap­pen in the sec­ond half. But they de­serve credit. They were in­cred­i­ble.”

RE­SULT — Semi-fi­nal play­off (best of seven se­ries): Cleve­land 112 Bos­ton 99 (Cleve­land lead 31). AFP


Cava­liers’ Kyrie Irv­ing jumps past Celtics’ Demetrius Jack­son for a slam dunk in Game Four of the NBA Eastern Conference Fi­nals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleve­land, Ohio on Tues­day.

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