CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James knows very well when it is time to step up his level of production, and the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday night was one of those moments.
After scoring 19 points over the first three quarters, James knocked down seven shots and tallied 15 markers over the final 12 minutes, which, when coupled with a single-game playoff high of 42 from point guard Kyrie Irving, led to a 112-99 victory over the Celtics.
With the win, the Cavaliers took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and will look to clinch their third straight trip to the NBA Finals with a win at TD Garden in Boston Thursday night.
After a season-low 11 points in Sunday’s Game 3 loss and despite making just one of his six three-point attempts, James scored 34 points on 15-of-27 shooting. Additionally, James pulled down five rebounds, handed out six assists, blocked one shot and stole a pass.
On his way to the 42 points, Irving converted 15 of his 22 attempts from the field, including four of his seven looks from three-point range and eight of his nine free throws. Along with the points, Irving pulled down three rebounds and assisted on four baskets.
The struggles of the second half of Game 3 continued for the Cavaliers at the start of Game 4, and that led to a 29-19 deficit after the first quarter of play.
The Cavaliers made just six of their 19 attempts from the field and one of their five three-point tries over the first 12 minutes of action. In addition to being outrebounded by the Celtics, 13-10, the Cavaliers committed four turnovers.
The Cavaliers scored the first five points of the game when Love buried a three-pointer from the left wing and followed up a drive to the basket with a pair of free throws, but over the next three minutes, the Celtics seized control.
A layup from Celtics center Kelly Olynyk preceded three-pointers on back-to-back possessions from small forward Jae Crowder and shooting guard Avery Bradley. After forward Al Horford converted a layup to make it 11 straight points from the Celtics, the Cavaliers burned a full timeout.
Out of the break, James made a layup that Love set up with a slick pass in the lane, and after a goaltending call on Cleveland center Tristan Thompson, Irving followed with a pair of free throws on the Cavaliers’ next possession.
Another two free throws from Irving cut Boston’s lead down to two points, 13-11, but following a dunk from James, the Celtics had an answer in the form of a 13-4 run over the next three minutes and increased their advantage to 26-15 with 2:11 to play in the quarter.
Much like they did in the first quarter, the Celtics came out aggressive on offense in the second period, and that momentum led to a 57-47 halftime lead over the Cavaliers.
Up by 10 points, 29-19, after an official review in-between quarters, the Celtics quickly built onto that advantage after withstanding the Cavaliers’ production in the paint from James and five points from reserve guard Iman Shumpert.
Although the Cavaliers cut the deficit down to seven points when Love threw down a dunk, and later, eight, 41-33, after Love buried a three-pointer, the Celtics went on an 8-0 run and put the lead up to 16 with 5:30 to play in the first half.
While the Cavaliers answered with an 8-2 scoring run of their own, fueled by a driving layup and three-pointer from Irving, the two teams played even over the remainder of the first half.
On the strength of 14 straight points from Irving, the Cavaliers came all the way back from a double-digit deficit and took an 87-80 lead over the Celtics after the third quarter.
Down by 12 in the early part of the third quarter after a Celtics basket, the Cavaliers slowed chipped away at the deficit with Irving and James at the forefront of the comeback effort.
After Irving made a driving layup, James buried a 17-foot jump shot. Then, James caught a pass from Irving and threw down a slam dunk that brought the crowd to its feet and got the Cavaliers to within seven points, 61-54, with 8:42 to play in the third quarter.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith kept the run going when he rebounded a missed shot from James, and in one motion, threw down a dunk.
Although a layup from James got Boston’s lead down to three points, 61-58, the Celtics went on a 5-0 run of their own. However, the Cavaliers had another answer in a the form of a 15-6 run, which James capped off with two free throws to put them back in front, 73-72, for the first time since they started the game out with 5-0 lead.
Irving made two straight driving layups in the lane 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. However, after retying his left shoe, Irving jogged down to the defensive end, and hit a driving jump shot on the next possession.
Then, Irving completed a three-point play with 1:02 left in the third quarter and beat the buzzer with a deep three-pointer.
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