logo


no avatar

All even in the East as Cavaliers roll again

By JOE VARDON • May 22, 2018 at 2:24 AM

CLEVELAND — LeBron James has three chances to win two more games and get to his eighth straight NBA Finals.

The Celtics can't like the sound of that.

James bullied his way to 44 points and the Cavaliers beat the Celtics 111-102 Monday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at The Q. The series shifts to Boston on Wednesday all tied at two.

"We like what we're doing defensively," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. " We've just got to do a better job taking care of the basketball."

The Cavs, shooting for their fourth straight conference title, led this game by 19 in the first half but suffered through 19 turnovers and some harrowing moments.

James' 3 with 1:47 remaining put the finishing touches on this one. The shot also gave him his sixth playoff game this season (and 25th of his career) of 40 or more points.

The Celtics were as close as seven with 4:10 left before Tristan Thompson (13 points, 12 boards) dunked off a pass from Kevin Love, and James stole the ball (after his own turnover) for a layup with 3:31 remaining.

George Hill followed by making a teardrop in the lane at 2:36.

The Celtics are now 1-6 on the road in this postseason. The good news for them: Two of the last three games in this series will be on their court, where they're 9-0.

"It's the best two out of three to go to the NBA Finals," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Doesn't get any better than that."

Jaylen Brown led them with 25 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter. Jayson Tatum added 17, Terry Rozier scored 16 points with 11 assists, and Al Horford contributed 15 points.

Kyle Korver scored all 14 of his points in the first half. By halftime, he was shooting 9-of-9 going back to the start of Game 3 and was 6-of-6 from 3-point range. He made two 3s Monday and missed all three of his shots in the second half.

Hill had a huge game with 13 points, four boards and three assists. Love finished with nine points and 11 boards. He committed six turnovers, was called for five fouls, and shot 3-of-12.

James shot 17-of-28 from the field and was 9-of-13 at the foul line. He also turned it over seven times (yes, these were a real problem -- Boston scored 19 off of the Cavs' turnovers). He added five boards and three assists.

"He's the best in the game at evaluating the court and figuring out what he wants and where he wants it," Stevens said.

"If you look at the four teams in the postseason now, Houston is trying to find mismatches, Golden State is trying to find mismatches, Boston, and us as well," James said. "We're all trying to find mismatches for us to try to be successful offensively. It's not much of a secret."

James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356 field goals) for the most baskets in NBA postseason history. The record-breaking basket was a 22-footer with 3:11 left in the second quarter.

James is already far and away the NBA's all-time leading scorer in the playoffs, entering Game 4 leading Michael Jordan by more than 600 points. This was James' 106th playoff game of 30 or more points, just three behind Jordan's league-best 109. He scored nine in the fourth.

This was was the first game this series that was decided by less than 10 points. Obviously (given Boston's perfect record at TD Garden this postseason) all four games have been won by the home team in this series.

The Cavs mauled Boston on the glass -- 47-37 -- and scored 50 points in the paint to Boston's 38.

Suffice it to say, the first quarter was not the start the Celtics envisioned -- given the 30-point beatdown they took Saturday. While James was zipping around all over the place (11 points, 4-of-4 shooting), Tatum, Horford, Marcus Smart, and Brown were a combined 1-of-16 from the field. Tatum and Brown each missed dunks (there was more of that later); Horford blew a layup.

The Cavs led 34-18 after one quarter. Korver, who was victimized by Brown in Game 1, blocked Brown twice in the first half. Korver later made one of the plays of the game, diving for a loose ball after racing the length of the floor to get it late in the third quarter.

"That's a guy that's all about winning, and whatever it takes to win," Lue said.

The Celtics made six 3s in the second quarter and got as close as nine, but it was 68-53 Cleveland at halftime (the most points the Cavs have scored in a half for the entire postseason). James scored another 11 in the second period and Korver erupted for 12 points.

Six Cleveland turnovers kept it relatively close in the third. Love picked up his fifth foul with 7:40 left in the period and the Cavs ahead by 12. The Celtics cut their deficit to seven, but, again, were foiled by James. He went for 13 points in the period and the Cavs were ahead 89-76 heading to the fourth.

Smart is struggling. After his 2-of-9 effort in Game 3, he shot 2-of-8 on Monday and missed his first six shots.

Recommended for You

    Norwalk Reflector Videos