Posted on May 24, 2017, by Travis Pulver
There probably were not too many people outside of Boston that were pulling for the Boston Celtics to win Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals. Most are probably eager for the Cavaliers to finish the Celtics off so the focus can shift to the Golden State Warriors. Sportswriters and bloggers though–another Boston win would give them much more to write about than another Cleveland one would.
So much for that.
During the first half, it looked like Boston might steal another win from the Cavaliers on their home court. They got out to a 29-19 lead after the first and ended up taking that 10-point lead into halftime after both teams scored 28 points in the second quarter.
But as nice as a ten-point lead was for the Celtics, it wasn’t an insurmountable lead. Cleveland just needed to play better defense and do one of two things on offense. They needed someone besides Kevin Love, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving to score some points (they were responsible for most of Cleveland’s first half points) or one of the Big Three could take over the game.
Enter Kyrie Irving.
The Cavaliers—with Irving leading the charge and James with four fouls in the first half—dominated the third quarter by outscoring the Celtics 40-23. They began the third down by ten but then entered the fourth with a seven-point advantage, 87-80. Irving nearly outscored the Celtics on his own with 21 points in the quarter.
Boston managed to keep it close in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. But after Al Horford closed the gap to six points, 98-92, the Cavaliers finished the game with a 14-7 run to make the final score 112-99, Cavaliers.
Cleveland never did get much from anyone outside of the Big Three (19 total points between four players; only seven off the bench). Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love combined to score 93 points. Irving did the most damage with 42 points (a new career playoff high) followed by James with 34 points. Love chipped in 17 points but also pulled down 17 rebounds.
“Coming out of halftime I just wanted to be aggressive, lead my guys and leave it all out there on the floor,” Irving said (ESPN).
As a team, the Cavaliers shot 59.5 percent on the night—the highest by any team during the postseason. After a mediocre effort in the first half, they shot 71 percent from the floor in the second half.
Marcus Smart’s barrage of three-pointers (7-10) was key to the Celtics winning Game Three, but Tuesday night he made only one basket (1-9 from the floor; 1-5 from three-point range). Avery Bradley led the way for the Celtics with 19 points.
The Cleveland crowd received a serious scare towards the end of the third quarter when Kyrie Irving went down after stepping on Terry Rozier’s foot. He stayed down for a few moments, sat up, retied his shoe, and played on.
Cleveland will have a chance to close out the series Thursday night in Boston at 8:30 PM ET on TNT.