Great players aren't always great. They're just great when they have to be.
That may be most true about what we saw from the Cavaliers, and in particular LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, on Tuesday night. The Wine and Gold rallied from 16 down to beat the Celtics, 112-99, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Q. The Cavs now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can advance to their third straight NBA Finals with a win in Boston on Thursday.
Things were not looking well for the Cavs with 6:46 to play in the first half. Down by ten, James picked up his fourth foul and had to sit on the bench while the defending NBA Champs fell behind by 16 points. Somewhat quietly, Irving went on a personal 10-2 run to help keep the Cavs to within striking distance at the half.
But that was nothing compared to what Irving did in the third quarter. He poured in 21 points, including the final 14 of the third to put the Cavs in the lead for good. He did much of the damage to Boston in the quarter while playing with an injured ankle.
"I was happy to sit back with those four fouls and see him (Irving) do what he's always been built to do," James said with a smile after the game. "He was born for these moments."
Then it was LeBron's turn to finish. James scored 15 of his 34 points in the final quarter to help seal the deal. I still wonder if The King is 100% healthy, but on this night, he was certainly spry enough.
So now the Cavs head back to Boston on Thursday as they look to finish off the Celtics. Our Dave Chudowsky asked LeBron how tough will it be to finish off Brad Stevens' scrappy team at home. "The closeout game is always the hardest," James replied. "We have to go in there with the 'bunker mentality' as we had in Games 1 and 2 to go out and do what we do. We have to defend. We have to execute offensively. We have to have low turnovers. And we have to make those guys miss."