LeBron Leads Cavs to Game 4 Victory, Series Heads to Boston Tied at Two
Two blowout losses on the road to the Boston Celtics had people wondering if this was it for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics dominated at home in Games 1 and 2 en route to a 2-0 series lead. But LeBron James and the Cavaliers supporting cast were not going to go down quietly in this series. A return home for Game 3 triggered a 30-point win for the Cavaliers, a game in which Cleveland took full control over right from the start.
As expected, the Celtics came out harder in Game 4, but it was not enough to defeat the Cavs on their home floor as LeBron dropped 44 points. Now the series shifts back to Boston with the pressure resting on the shoulders of the Celtics after dropping two straight. But going home may not be such a bad thing for a Celtic team that is 9-0 this postseason at home while struggling on the road to the tune of a 1-6 record.
Cavaliers Runs Help Stretch Lead Early
Similar to Game 3, the Cavaliers took the lead early and never looked back in this one. Boston took an early 8-6 advantage with 8:22 remaining in the first quarter on a Jaylen Brown layup and then never again. Cleveland proceeded to go on the attack, producing a 13-2 run to give them a nine point lead with 4:53 left in the first. Not long after that the Cavs offense produced another run through the final two minutes of the first and beginning of the second quarter. Led by Kyle Korver who put five points up during a 12-1 run by Cleveland, helped extend the Cavaliers lead to 37-18 early in the second.
The series of early runs by the Cavaliers helped them take an early edge on the Celtics, forcing Boston to play catch up for most of the first half. Despite a 35-point second quarter by the Celtics, the Cavaliers offense continued to produce at a high level as well to the tune of 34 points. A strong offensive quarter for the Celtics still had them trailing 68-53 to Cleveland heading into the halftime break.
Missed Opportunities Hurt Boston
Boston would come out strong in the third quarter, giving themselves a chance to get back in the game. However, they never got it close enough to make the Cavaliers uncomfortable due to a variety of missed opportunities. On one sequence, trailing 68-55 early in the third, a JR Smith turnover gave the Celtics the ball with a chance to cut into the lead, but Al Horford missed a floater while being guarded by Kevin Love. LeBron James missed two free throws on the other end after a foul by Jaylen Brown, giving the Celtics another chance to cut into the lead. This time, Marcus Morris was called for an offensive foul leading to another Boston turnover. Finally following a turnover by Love, the Celtics were able to put points on the board on a layup by Brown. But two wasted opportunities could have given the Celtics a chance to cut the Cavs lead to single-digits.
Meanwhile, Cleveland maintained their lead and used a late 9-4 run in the third to stretch the lead back up to 13 heading into the fourth. Boston would respond in the early going, producing an 8-2 run that cut Cleveland's lead down to seven with 6:55 remaining in the game. Along that stretch, Boston had additional opportunities to diminish the Cavaliers lead even further. In the midst of their run while trailing 96-88, the two teams went into a stalemate. Cleveland missed its next six shots over the course of the next two minutes, giving Boston an opportunity to capitalize. But the Celtics could not respond, turning the ball over once, missing three shots from the field, one from the free throw line, and scoring just one point on an Aron Baynes free throw. This would be as close as the Celtics would get as Cleveland went on to take the game 111-102, sending the Eastern Conference Finals back to Boston tied at two games a piece.
Additonal Factors to Cavaliers Success in Game 4
Fortunately for the Cavs, Boston was unable to make the most of the 19 turnovers Cleveland produced as they put up a mere 12 points off of turnovers in Game 4. Additionally, the Celtics were unable to win the battle of the boards on the defensive end, being outrebounded 38-28 by the Cavs. Boston had their chances to take this game on the road, but gave Cleveland too many second chance opportunities and did not utilize the turnovers they seized from the Cavaliers. However, the Cavaliers deserve credit as well for their better play on defense to limit Boston's big men from scoring or getting to the basket easily. They outscored the Celtics 50-38 on points in the paint during Game 4, they will have to repeat this in Game 5 if they want to steal a road win against Boston.
At the end of the day, the road to get to the NBA Finals still goes through Boston. But should the Cavaliers pull off a victory in Game 5, they would be in the drivers seat to return to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals this year. It will not be easy given the Celtics record at home, but anything is possible for a Cavaliers team that has the best player in the league, LeBron James.
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