CLEVELAND -- When the Cleveland Cavaliers needed him most, veteran point guard Kyrie Irving stepped up and played a critical role in the 109-102 Game 4 victory over the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Air Canada Centre Sunday.
Irving converted three of his six field-goal attempts, including a three-pointer and all four of his free throws on the way to 11 points in the final quarter. Irving totaled 27 points in the series-clinching victory, the Cavaliers’ eighth straight to start the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
“Winning time, just understanding the magnitude of the game, what was at stake,” Irving said. “A lot of our offense was on ‘Bron’s shoulders. He had been playing I think at least 16 straight minutes or 18 straight minutes, and it was winning time for the both of us.
“We understood that, so just getting to the basket and just catching it a little bit closer to the basket at the elbow, isoing me at the elbow as well as running a double screen on the weak side opened up a lot of opportunities.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers battle Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
Although the Raptors took a lead when center Serge Ibaka converted a three-point play early in the fourth quarter, the advantage did not last long as the Cavaliers went on a 14-2 run and never looked back.
Irving keyed the rally when he buried a step-back three-pointer and followed up with four free throws, as well as a pair of driving shots in the lane. Irving scored 11 straight fourth-quarter points to put the Cavaliers back in front.
“It’s not prototypical for a right-hand dominant guy to be stepping back right,” Irving said of the three-pointer from the right wing. “You don’t really see it often, especially not just a step-back, but a side-step. For me, it’s just an incredible shot because I’m already lined up to the rim and my elbow’s already pointed, so when I get it to that area where it’s on my hip, it’s just almost a straight shot.
“It’s almost undefendable for me. No matter who’s guarding me, it opens up an opportunity for me to get to my right hand if they crowd me. It’s just playing the game the right way, but also, realizing there is so many more moves that I can do out of that and set up my guy to get to the rim, make a play for my teammate or take a step-back three.”
In the closeout victory over the Raptors, Irving scored 27 points on 10-of-24 shooting, including two three-pointers, and five free throws to go along with five rebounds, nine assists, four steals and one blocked shot over 40-plus minutes of action.
“It’s definitely a plus when you have guys that can close the game out and get into their zone, and at that point in time, we needed it,” small forward LeBron James said. “You see the talent, and once you put the talent, and then, the experience, and then, the mind, you know you really start to see what he’s capable of doing.”
Power forward Kevin Love added, “That’s what he does. He gets into a good groove, and he’s tough to stop. Even when you send a couple guys at him, he’s off-balance, you force him into tough shots, when he’s in a zone like that, he’s very tough to stop. He’s just a pure scorer.”