LeBron James

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Cavaliers 111, Celtics 102: LeBron flexes and now conference finals are best-of-3

John Tomase
May 21, 2018 - 11:19 pm
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Turns out it's not so easy to overthrow a King.

The Celtics arrived in Cleveland on Friday believing they could sweep LeBron James right out of the Eastern Conference Finals. They returned to Boston on Monday night with a more humbling and daunting mission: winning a best-of-three.

There will be no sweep. The Cavaliers took care of that by taking care of business on their home floor, claiming a 111-102 victory in Game 4 that sends the series back to Boston on Wednesday with the Celtics trying to stay perfect at home this postseason and the Cavs hoping to come home for Game 6 with a chance to clinch their fourth straight Finals.

"It's best two out of three to go to the NBA Finals," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "It doesn't get better than that."

At least this one was close. After getting blown out in Game 3, the Celtics found themselves down 19 in the second quarter of Game 4 before making it a game in the fourth quarter and cutting the lead to seven.

But James was simply too much to handle. He finished with 44 points and most of them came in short yardage. Though the Celtics forced him into seven turnovers, he wore them down, drilling the clinching 3-pointer in the final three minutes.

While this one wasn't totally LeBron, it was mostly LeBron. Kyle Korver once again came out on fire. After not missing a shot in Game 3, he followed with a perfect first half and 14 points in Game 4. He also played surprisingly solid defense on Jaylen Brown, blocking one drive, stripping another, and beating three Celtics to a loose ball on the dead sprint to gain possession for the Cavs.

Brown led the Celtics with 25 after a brutal 1-for-9 start. Jayson Tatum finished with 17 as the Celtics had five starters in double figures.

After a passive Game 3, the Celtics came out on the attack. But they couldn't convert a number of open looks. Particularly egregious -- they missed at least three dunks. Brown started miserably, while Tatum opened 1-for-5.

The C's settled down in the second quarter to cut a 19-point lead to nine before a Cleveland run boosted the lead back to 15. Included in the quarter-closing run was a missed dunk by Brown that led to a basket on the other end.

End of quarters killed the Celtics. After cutting the lead to eight late in the third, the C's let the Cavs close on a 9-4 run to push the bulge back to 13.

The Cavaliers shot lights out for the second straight game, spending most of the night pushing 60 percent and finishing at 50 percent. They smartly exploited the Celtics' propensity to switch, particularly when Rozier ended up on James. The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder feasted repeatedly while making 17-of-28 shots.

These are the Celtics, though, so they didn't go quietly. After falling behind by 15 in the fourth, they cut the lead to eight on an Al Horford dunk with eight minutes left. Keying the run was Brown, who rebounded from his horrible start to make 10-of-23 shots.

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