CLEVELAND -- Adversity is not something new to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they would not have it any other way.
Down by 12 in the early part of the third quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals after a Boston Celtics basket, the Cavaliers slowed chipped away at the deficit, and on the strength of 14 straight points from point guard Kyrie Irving, they came all the way back and posted a 112-99 Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Adversity has a way of really bringing out the best in people, or it can bring out the worst,” Irving said. “You know, I've been on both sides. I know a couple of my teammates have, and us as a team, we've been on both sides, as well.
“You just have a choice to make, and it has to be a fearless approach, and it comes from up top and our leadership. I'm not going to waver. I'm not going to show any signs of giving up or anything of that matter.”
After Irving made a driving layup, small forward LeBron James buried a 17-foot jump shot. Then, James caught a pass from Irving and threw down a slam dunk that brought the Cleveland crowd to its feet and got the Cavaliers to within seven points, 61-54, with 8:42 to play in the third quarter in Game 4.
Later in the period, Irving made two straight driving layups to put the Cavaliers up by five points, 77-72, but on the second shot, he fell to the floor and reached for his lower left leg. After writhing in pain as Cavaliers teammates and fans held their collective breath, Irving retied his left shoe, was helped up to his feet, jogged down to the defensive end, and hit a driving jump shot on the next possession.
Following the tense moments, Irving completed a three-point play with 1:02 left in the third quarter, and then, beat the buzzer with a deep three-pointer.
“My job is to continue to play and continue to lead these guys as best I know how, and it's a difficult task, but adversity is part of life, and it's a part of the game, and it's just basketball,” Irving said. “And if you leave it all out there and you can look yourself in the mirror after the games and you gave it 150 percent, that's all you can ask for from yourself.”
After struggling through much of the first two rounds of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, Irving hit his stride in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Toronto Raptors, and since those 11 straight points that sealed the comeback win at Air Canada Centre, he has continued to push the envelope.
Irving has averaged 26.4 points over the last five games and set a new single-game playoff high with 42 in the Game 4 win over the Celtics. Prior to that, Irving’s single-game playoff high was 41 points in a Game 5 win over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.
“Once I started just really dialing back in and understanding what teams were trying to do, they were trying to get the ball out of my hands, trying to double me, trying to make me be a playmaker, and I can score and play make,” Irving said.
“It was a difficult balance, but I mean, the only thing that matters in the playoffs is winning, and that's all I care about. I'm going to go out shooting all my bullets and making sure that my teammates do the same and leave it all out there, so the efficiency and everything else will come, and I'm confident in that.”