Cleveland Cavaliers benefit from taking care of the basketball

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving drives to the basket against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals at Quicken Loans Arena.
↓ Advertisement ↓

CLEVELAND -- For four straight quarters in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers were plagued by turnovers, and that led to a second-half collapse against the Boston Celtics in Game 3 and a sluggish start to Game 4.

However, the Cavaliers limited the turnovers in the second half of Game 4, and by taking better care of the basketball, they were able to rally from 16 points down to pull out a 112-99 victory and take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into tonight’s Game 5 matchup at TD Garden in Boston.

“It was big for us,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “You know, offensively, we know we can score the basketball, but these guys, they do a great job of pressuring you, Avery, Crowder, Smart, Rozier, so they do a good job of pressuring the basketball.”

After nine first-half turnovers led to 13 points for the Celtics, who had just three turnovers over the first 24 minutes, the Cavaliers committed just six miscues in the third and fourth quarters. Conversely, they forced nine Celtics turnovers and converted them into 13 points.

↓ Advertisement ↓

“They're a tough, competitive team, so defensively, they get a lot of deflections and a lot of steals,” Lue said. “We had a couple turnovers that were unforced, but for the most part, I thought they forced those turnovers. But once we took care of the basketball, we got shots, you know, I thought to get the game turned around, but also, defensively was the reason why it turned around.”

As has been the case when the Cavaliers have played their best basketball, they used their defense to generate offense.

While limiting the Celtics to 42 points over the third and fourth quarters, the Cavaliers outscored Boston, 36-10 in the paint, 8-6 in second-chance opportunities and 10-2 in fast-break situations.

“In order to be successful, you have to defend,” small forward LeBron James said. “You have to defend, especially versus a team like this who moves the ball, shares the ball, moves bodies, and they're very precise with their offensive sets. You have to defend, and it allows us to get to our best attribute at times, and that's to get out on the open floor. I think that allowed us to outscore them by 17 in the third.”

In addition to limiting their turnovers, the Cavaliers proved adept at getting extra possessions.

Power forward Kevin Love pulled down 10 of his 17 rebounds in the second half, including two on the offensive end of the floor when center Tristan Thompson, Cleveland’s most tenacious rebounder, drew double and triple box outs from the Celtics.

“When you look at some of the greatest rebounders in our game, guys who create extra possessions, you've got to figure out a way to try to take him out, and not take him out like in a bad way, but how do you keep him off the glass, and they're doing a really good job the last couple games of putting two or three bodies on him,” James said.

“When you do that, you allow our other front-court player, who's been a monster rebounder his whole career, to come up and do the thing that he did, and we needed that. We needed the 17 rebounds from Kev, and it was huge for our team.”