The Associated Press
CLEVELAND–LeBron James knows the path to the NBA Finals better than anyone in today’s game.
And unless the Boston Celtics do something soon, he’ll get there again.
James bullied his way to 44 points, surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar atop a post-season list, and helped the Cleveland Cavaliers even the Eastern Conference final at 2-2 last night with a 111-102 victory over the Celtics, who are looking forward to getting home before their adoring fans.
Pushed by a raucous crowd that wasn’t so confident a few days ago, the Cavs held off Boston’s comeback in the fourth quarter and squared a tight series that’s now a best-of-three.
Cleveland is trying to become just the 20th team–out of 300–to overcome a 2-0 deficit and James, who already has orchestrated two such rallies and is seeking his eighth-straight Finals, is a step closer to a third.
To do it again, the Cavs will have to win in Boston, where the Celtics are 9-0 this post-season.
“We know it’s going to be a hostile environment,” James said. “We know their fans are going to be very energetic.
“But we have to just have our same mindset we had when we came home for these two games,” he noted.
“If our minds are there, we put ourselves in a position to be victorious.”
Game 5 goes tomorrow night at TD Garden, and Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens is trying to stay positive with a team that has given up a 2-0 lead and fell to 1-6 on the road in these playoffs.
“It’s the best two out of three to go to the NBA Finals. Doesn’t get better than that,” he remarked.
“Ultimately, anybody that didn’t think this was going to be tough, I mean, everything is tough,” Stevens stressed.
“In this deal, it’s a blast to have to grit your teeth, get up off the mat, and go after it again.”
Kyle Korver added 14 points while Cleveland’s sharp-shooting 37-year-old added three block and several hustle plays–outrunning three Celtics in one sequence and diving for a loose ball.
“I’ve loved Kyle ever since we made the trade to get him here” James said.
“But listen, he’s doing whatever it takes to try to help us win, with the blocks, with the strips,” he noted.
“Obviously, his shot-making is very key for our team, as well, but it’s just the intangibles he’s doing for us defensively.”
Tristan Thompson had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who won despite 19 turnovers and just two assists in the second half.
Kevin Love had just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting and was in foul trouble, but he made a big three-pointer and follow shot in the fourth quarter.
Jaylen Brown scored 25 and Boston had all five scorers in double figures, but the Celtics fell behind by 19 in the first half and didn’t have enough to catch Cleveland.