NBA Preview: The Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to fulfill their reservation for a party of two at the NBA Finals with Golden State if they can defeat the Boston Celtics Thursday night.
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers (62-32) at #1 Boston Celtics (62-37), Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. EST
Line: Cavaliers -10. Total 215.5.
Series: Cavaliers lead 3-1.
Game 4 can be summarized with the same title as Game 3: “The Tale of Two Halves”. However, Boston and Cleveland flip-flopped which halves they controlled in Game 4. The team who dominated the second half won both games.
In Game 3, the Cavaliers led by 11 points at the end of the first quarter and 16 points at the half. However, the Celtics took control of the game about halfway through the third quarter. Avery Bradley won Game 3 with a three-pointer with one-tenth of a second left in the contest. That bucket finished a 55-31 Celtics’ run to end the game as Boston won 111-108.
In Game 4, the Celtics led by 10 points at the end of the first quarter and at the end of the half. However, the Cavaliers outscored Boston 65-42 in the second half and pulled away late to win 112-99. Kyrie Irving scored 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting in the third quarter while LeBron James scored 15 points in the fourth quarter on 7-for-11 shooting. Both players had 24 points apiece in the second half.
To the surprise of nobody, King James responded from his dismal 11-point performance in Game 3. LeBron scored 34 points while dishing out 6 assists and grabbing 5 rebounds in Game 4. LeBron managed those numbers despite playing a postseason low of 15 minutes and 32 seconds in the first half because he had 4 fouls. James shot 15-for-27 from the field (55.6%) and took over the fourth quarter for the Cavs.
However, Irving was the headliner for Game 4. The 6-foot, 3-inch starting all-star point guard took over the game when James left in the second quarter due to foul trouble. Irving scored 14 points in the final six minutes of the first half to cut Boston’s 16-point lead to 10. He then went off in the third quarter, scoring 21 points as the Celtics’ 10-point halftime lead was now a 7-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Irving finished the game with a career playoff high 42 points on 15-for-22 shooting (62.8%).
The Cavaliers needed a big second-half effort because the Celtics carried the momentum they built in the last 18 minutes of Game 3 into Game 4. Boston spread the ball around in the first quarter. The Celtics had six players who scored points and they had 8 assists and just one turnover. Jae Crowder was 3-for-3 in the quarter, all from beyond the arc and had 11 points. Bradley and Kelly Olynyk had 6 points apiece in the first quarter.
The Celtics carried their 10-point first-quarter lead into the half. However, Boston had to be disappointed that their 16-point, second-quarter lead had been cut to 10 points at halftime. The Celtics had a chance to build on that 16-point lead with LeBron out and instead their lead shrank.
Boston struggled mightily in the second half. After committing just 3 turnovers in the first half, the Celtics turned it over 9 times in the second half. The Celtics shot just 28.6% from three-point land in the second half. Boston was outrebounded 18-to-12 and they looked tired at times in the third quarter. Several Boston players’ jump shots were front-rimming often.
The Celtics had a balanced attack despite the loss. Bradley finished with a team-high 19 points, while Crowder finished with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Al Horford scored 16 points, Olynyk had 15 points, while Jonas Jerebko and Jaylen Brown had 9 points apiece.
Kevin Love finished with 17 points, 17 rebounds and 5 assists to go along with Irving’s 42 points and LeBron’s 34 points. The Big 3 combined to score 93 points for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland took Boston’s best shot during the first half of Game 4 and still prevailed. I expect the Celtics to go down fighting. However, the daunting task of winning three straight games to win this series has to be mentally draining. Sure, their players are saying they will take it one game at a time and their focus is strictly on Game 5. Although that is easier said than done.
From a handicapping perspective, it comes down to whether or not the Celtics can cover the points because I feel the Cavs are going to win Game 5. Destiny awaits the Cavaliers for their much anticipated trilogy of the NBA Finals with Golden State. Cleveland just has to be careful not to get caught looking ahead. The Cavs need to take care of business Thursday night.
My postseason record: 16-7 (+$745).
No play tonight and no leans. I am waiting for the championship finals.
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