Cavaliers even series with 111-102 win over Boston
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - LeBron James knows how to pack a house, which isn’t surprising considering his resume — frequently graces the covers of magazines and homepages of popular websites, spends his days as a family man and business mogul while moonlighting as the NBA’s best player, champion, multiple-time league and Finals MVP, been known to carry his team on his back with the strength of Marvel’s Hulk.
When James laces up his sneakers in Quicken Loans Arena, the forum in his native Northeast Ohio where he performs his artistry, locals and visitors from abroad fill the arena located in Cleveland’s downtown metropolitan area. Where James plays basketball, people flock to like Angry Birds to little green pigs, which helped the Cavs set a franchise record Monday night with their 200th consecutive sellout at The Q (regular season and playoffs).
Dating back to the start of the sellout streak and entering Monday night’s pivotal Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, James and the Cavs held a 152-47 record at home. Yet, finding a way to win on Monday was Cleveland’s latest important mission, as they trailed the boys from Beantown 2-1 in the series.
You couldn’t blame Cavs fans if they were fidgety and tore through a couple fingernails on Monday night, as the Cavs had plenty of opportunities throughout the evening to put the Celtics away. The scrappy and youthful bunch fought back every time Cleveland secured a large lead, but to no avail in the end, as the Cavs held on for a 111-102 victory to even the East Finals at two games apiece.
“Obviously, we were a lot better defensively, flying around, making them take contested shots and making them make the extra pass and still being able to fly around,” James said of the difference with his team from the two losses in Boston to the two wins in Cleveland. “Our communication level has been up, obviously, in the last two games.
“As loud as it is in The Garden, we got to be able to transfer that energy and that communication into Game 5 in order for us to be better than we were in Game 1 and 2.”
The Cavs needed another heroic performance from James to hold off the Celtics in Game 4, and he didn’t fail to deliver. His 44 points were a game-high, while he also made a staggering 17 of his 28 field goal attempts. Speaking of James’ field goals, he etched his name in another part of the NBA’s history book on Monday. With his sixth field goal, James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356 FGM) as the NBA’s all-time postseason leader in field goals made.
“Anytime I’m in the same breath with the greats, it’s just humbling,” James said. “To know where I come from, a small city 35 miles south of here, to hear I’m in the same category or talked about jumping these greats in the playoffs, it’s like I was a kid and I watched the playoffs so much and I was like I’d love to be a part of that, that moment, that atmosphere.
“I think it’s pretty cool, scoring and field goals made, and for a kid that really don’t care much about scoring.”
While that feat is incredible to fathom, considering James’ age (33) and that he likely has plenty more playoff games in his future, his biggest buckets of the night came in the fourth quarter. As the Celtics made one of their late runs, James converted a layup with 3:39 to play that put Cleveland back up double digits, 104-93. His back-breaking three-pointer less than two minutes later put the Cavs up 109-95 and essentially iced the game.
“I thought we got a little stagnant in that fourth quarter, but we wanted to go LeBron in that fourth quarter, set the tone when he came back in,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said.
The Cavs are attempting to do something they’ve only done twice in franchise playoff history, overcome an 0-2 deficit. The last time they accomplished the task was the 2016 NBA Finals in their epic comeback over the Golden State to win the franchise’s first title. Monday’s game slightly paled in comparison to the magnitude of that series with the Warriors, but Cleveland knew how important it was to get off to a good start.
The Cavs trailed Boston 10-9 with roughly eight minutes to play in the first quarter after Celtics point guard Terry Rozier pulled-up and sank an 18-foot jumper. However, Cavs center Tristan Thompson converted a layup on Cleveland’s next possession to regain the lead, and the team never looked back.
The Cavs closed the first quarter with a 25-8 run to take a 34-18 lead when period ended. Cleveland led 68-53 at halftime, and Boston never came within a seven-point deficit the rest of the way.
“He’s the best player in the game at evaluating the court and figuring out what he wants and where he wants it,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of James. The thing about it is that you just have to battle.
“You just have to make it as hard as possible, because he’s going to find a matchup that he ultimately wants.”
James and the Cavs moved to 7-1 at home in the playoffs, and a few of his teammates contributed to the cause on Monday. Thompson’s night stood out the most among the other Cavs, as the big man totaled 13 points and 12 rebounds. George Hill chipped-in 13 points, while Kyle Korver (14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks) may have had his best game of the season on the defensive end of the floor.
All five Celtics starters scored in double-figures, but only three players from Boston’s bench saw playing time and none scored more than eight points.
The Cavs handled their business by winning the last two games at home, but they still have to do something no team has done in the playoffs this year: win a game in Boston. Yet, as he’s attempting to reach his eighth straight NBA Finals, all eyes are once again on James..
POSTED 05/22/2018 00:50