CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is known as much for his driving abilities as he is for his mid-range jumper or shooting prowess from three-point range, and with his team facing elimination, he put that creating off the dribble skill set on full display.
On the strength of one of Irving’s most prolific postseason games, the Cavaliers fought their way to a 137-116 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2017 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena Friday night, which forced tonight’s Game 5 matchup at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
“We love how aggressive Kyrie’s been, and it’s been great for our team, obviously, with his individual ability to make shots and to take big shots and to knock them down,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “That’s been key for our team, and for the rest of us, we have to do everything else.
“We have to defend, rebound, set screens for him. We have to get him looks when he’s got it going. We have to set great screens for him to get him going and things of that nature, so we hopefully can continue that.”
Irving scored a game-high 40 points on 15-of-27 shooting, including a seven-of-12 performance from three-point range, which came on the heels of an 0-for-7 showing from long distance in the Game 3 loss Wednesday night.
Irving added seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 40 minutes of action.
“I think it’s playing with more pace offensively, pushing the basketball,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “On misses or makes, he’s pushing it and trying to create an advantage there. I think that with the switches, he’s attacking early.
“Not messing around with it too much. Just attacking early. We already know he’s one of the best one-on-one players in the game, so when he’s attacking early, we are moving bodies on the weak side, and they can’t load up to him.”
Over the first two games of The Finals, Irving struggled find himself offensively, but that changed in Game 3.
In a hotly contested loss, Irving knocked down 16 of his 29 looks from the field despite missing all seven of his three-point tries on the way to 38 points. Irving added six rebounds and three assists in 44 minutes of play.
Then, he followed it up with a near career-high performance, which helped the Cavaliers stave off elimination for at least one more game.
“We have been playing him off the ball, let him move, come off pin-downs and been trying to cause confusion and make Klay work that way,” Lue said.
“Klay is a great defender, so being 6-7 and locking into his body, being physical makes it tougher. So trying to move Kyrie off the ball a little bit and let him come off pin-downs and screens and give him a different look.”
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