Sports

Kyrie Irving's takeover puts Celtics in win-or-die situation

Irving took over in the second half and finished with 42 points despite playing on a tender ankle, LeBron James added 34 and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved within one win of an nearly inevitable third date in the NBA Finals with Golden State by rallying to beat Boston 112-99 on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) and center Al Horford (42) celebrate after the Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Celtics, who led by as many as 16 in the first half before a shell-shocked crowd, will try to stave off elimination Thursday night in Game 5 of the Eastern finals at TD Garden.

"We're all to blame", said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue on Monday. "If we play harder than they do we can get back in it".

"It was one of those games that we had to fight through and we had to earn it". He had a career game that once again proves why Boston fans love him.

If that's the case, the Celtics will need to perform just as well as they did in Game 3, if not better, for Tuesday's contest. But then Kyrie took matters into his own hands. For most of the series, the second unit has been sub-par, and that hadn't been the case in the first two rounds of the postseason.

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Irving had led a 17-point swing in the quarter.

The Celtics' lead always felt flimsy, and Irving took a sledgehammer to it in the third quarter, almost outscoring Boston by himself and formally putting an end to their chances with a magnificent 21-point frame. With less than six minutes remaining, the Celtics held possession of the ball in a six-point game.

Certainly, Boston's defense had a role in James' struggles. Nothing was keeping him out.

James was hit with his fourth foul with 6 minutes and 46 seconds left in the second quarter after barreling into Terry Rozier.

Thanks to Irving's stoic approach in the face of temporary adversity, the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to erase what was at one point a 12-point third-quarter deficit. That delivered a shocking win for these NBA Playoffs as an undermanned Celtics team surprised a team that had a 10-0 record in the postseason. The Celtics have described Thomas' condition as a tear in his hip. In the first half, the Celtics had 17 assists on 21 field goals.

- The Celtics had four starters score 15-plus points. He hit a 28-footer to close the third.

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"I had a tough game, period", he said.

James has mentored students by writing letters, calling their homes and rewarding them with tickets to Cavs games.

We saw what a Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley backcourt can do defensively. A pair of Jonas Jerebko free throws made it a 66-58 game.

It seemed an opportune time to build on the lead and put a genuine scare into a goofy Cleveland crowd that relies on scoreboard prompts such as Ben Roethlisberger photos as cues to cheer and boo. An Irving layup cut the lead to one, 69-68. He shot an impressive 15-for-22 from the floor, including a 4-for-7 mark from 3-point range.

In all, Irving made 10 baskets in the paint, tying his career high.

He didn't exactly slow down. The fact that the Cavs scored 108 points and James only scored 11 of them should concern the Celtics. Despite rolling around on the court in obvious pain, Irving stayed in the game and scored 10 points over the next 1:49, helping the Cavaliers break away from the game Celtics. His most egregious miss was a 3-point bid with 5:45 left to play that, had it gone would have pulled the Celtics, trailing 98-92 at the time, to within 3 points.

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