Sport

Kyrie-Markable: Irving's 42 Carries Cavaliers Past Celtics

But if Games 3 and 4 are any indication, it won't be easy. All signs pointed to another ugly game.

James returned for the start of the second half, but this was the obvious early storyline of the game considering how important the perennial MVP candidate has been to the Cavaliers since returning to Cleveland.

James didn't waste much time or energy rehashing his 11 point performance in Game 3 that saw the Cavs lose 111-108 on a 3-pointer in the final second and him not score a point over the final 16 minutes of the game.

James' second-half disappearing act was especially perplexing. There is no secret that the Celtics are much better on the defensive side of the ball without Thomas. The answer, apparently, was no game plan at all. Most important, Marcus Smart, a third-year point guard filling in for Thomas, did a passable imitation of James himself, scoring 28 on 7-of-10 shooting from 3-point range - after averaging less than 30 percent from that distance all season. "We just have to come out and play". Great passing and offensive execution by the Celtics stretched the lead to, as many as, 11 points.

Thomas didn't travel with the club to Cleveland, but he was part of the postgame fun. He had a career game that once again proves why Boston fans love him. Kyrie Irving had some lovely drives to the rim.

Of course, LeBron's not the only player on the team. James, save for that, umm, hiccup in Game 3, is having the best postseason of his life at age 32.

Stevens added, "The guy is a tremendous basketball player". On offense, the Cavs reverted to isos (not even pick and rolls!) and it very much did not work.

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In this one, Irving scored 36 of his points following James' fourth foul with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, which forced James to the bench.

This performance was an unintentional homage to the original Isiah Thomas's legendary 25-point quarter for the Pistons in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals.

Yes, these are small samples, but they're not irrelevant. Love did find James with his trademark length-of-the-court pass and James delivered with a one-handed jam to cut Boston's lead to 18-13. Bradley was the Celtics' high scorer with just 19 points. It's the fourth quarter thing that's really unusual. No doubt, Stevens is hoping for more of the latter, than the former.

It's worth noting that without Love's dominant first-half scoring, the Cavaliers wouldn't have had some of their substantial leads, so this isn't to say that Kevin Love needs to step it up. There are two playoff games from LeBron's rolodex that always stands out as defining moments that charted his narrative before he won his first championship with Miami. However, the Cavs just fell back into their regular season habits of pounding the ball for 20 seconds and failing to account for the open man on defense.

The Cavaliers came out of halftime with new energy and determination. The decision made sense; James has certainly earned the league's longest leash with his Hall of Fame exploits, and Lue's got to trust his top gun not to put himself and the team that so desperately needs him in risky positions by playing too aggressively and courting that bang-bang call. "We couldn't get stops". It was frustrating in April, and it's frustrating now.

Marcus Smart is probably the most polarizing player on the Celtics in recent memory, perhaps even more so than Rajon Rondo.



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