Wrap-Up — The Celtics did what they had to do in Boston. The Cavaliers did their work in Cleveland. Now we’re down to a best-of-three series to see who’s the real beast of the East.
After taking two on the chin to start the series up in Beantown, the Wine & Gold found their footing at home – bouncing back to tie the series at two games apiece with Monday’s 111-102 win in Game 4 at The Q.
The Cavaliers went wire-to-wire over the Celtics in Game 3 and were almost as dominant on Monday night – taking their final lead with 7:31 to play in the first quarter and keeping Boston at a double-digit distance for most of the rest of the contest despite not being especially sharp after intermission.
Defensively, Cleveland was sharp once again – holding the Celtics to 41 percent shooting on the night, besting Boston on the boards, 47-37, and forcing 10 turnovers that the Cavs converted into a dozen points.
After dropping the postseason opener against Indiana, the Cavaliers have now won six straight at The Q while the Celtics Playoff road woes continue – falling to 1-6 away from TD Garden after Monday night’s loss.
Despite getting another strong collective effort from the rest of the squad, LeBron James still notched his sixth 40-point game of the 2018 postseason – and second in the last three outings in the series – leading both teams with 44 points on 17-for-28 shooting, going 9-of-13 from the stripe while adding five boards, three assists and a steal.
Kyle Korver notched his second straight 14-point game off the bench – drilling his first four shots of the night and finishing 4-of-7 from the floor, including 2-of-5 from long-range. The 15-year veteran was solid on both ends of the floor, leading both squads with three of Cleveland’s eight blocks on the night.
”I think we’ve just played like a different team (at home), to be honest,” said Korver. “Those first two games in Boston, that wasn’t us. That was really poor, poor basketball on our end. So we’ve come home and we’ve taken care of business here.”
Tristan Thompson tallied his third double-double of the postseason and continued to flummox Al Horford on the defensive end – finishing with 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, going 6-of-10 from the floor, adding two assists, two blocks and a pair of steals.
”It’s not a series until you win a game on the road, right?” quipped Thompson after the game. “(Boston)’s been really good at home. We know that their crowd is going to be into it. They’re going to come out fighting. They’re going to be real physical like they were in Games 1 and 2. We’ve got to weather that storm. We’ve got to weather that storm and stay together as a team.”
George Hill bounced back from a rough start to the series – scoring 13 points for the second straight game, going 6-for-9 from the floor to go with four boards, three assists and a pair of steals.
Kevin Love scored five of his nine points in the fourth quarter, adding 11 boards and three assists despite battling shooting and foul difficulties through most of the night.
Korver chips in 14 points off the bench to spark the Game 4 victory.
All five Celtics starters tallied double-figures – led by Jaylen Brown’s 25 points. Terry Rozier doubled-up with 16 points and 11 assists and Al Horford added 15 points and seven boards, but never got into the rhythm that he enjoyed through the first two games in Boston.
As a team, the Wine & Gold shot 51 percent from the floor, including 8-of-23 from long-distance. The Celtics – who were outscored in the pain, 50-38, canned nine triples in the loss. The Celtics did hand out 21 assists to just 15 for the Cavaliers – who finished with just two helpers after halftime.
Turning Point — Despite the Celtics staying within striking distance the entire way, the Cavaliers maintained a double-digit lead for most of the way. But Boston gave them a good scare down the stretch.
With 4:29 to play in the game, the Celtics trimmed Cleveland’s 15-point fourth-quarter lead to just a touchdown on Marcus Smart’s layup. But that was as close as Brad Stevens’ squad would get the rest of the way.
Tristan Thompson scored on a dunk on Cleveland’s next possession and LeBron picked Marcus Smart after he’d secured a defense rebound, laying it in to put the Cavaliers up 11 – 104-93.
LeBron drilled his only triple of the night seconds later to give Cleveland a 14-point lead with 1:43 remaining, sealing the deal and sending the series back to Boston all knotted up.
”We don’t know what we’re going to see in Game 5 – only the game gods know that,” said LeBron. “We know it’s going to be a hostile environment. 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.”
By the Numbers – 2,368 … Playoff field goals that LeBron James has now made – moving him past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time postseason leader.
Quotable – Coach Tyronn Lue, on Tristan Thompson’s mindset after playing sparingly to start the postseason …
”He could have given in, but he stayed the course. He continued to work on his body, work on his game. (We) called his number in Game 7 (against Indiana) and he was ready to go – and the rest is history.”
Up Next — After holding serve with two convincing victories at The Q, the series now goes 1-1-1 the rest of the way – beginning with Wednesday night’s showdown in Boston for Game 5 at TD Garden. It’s back here in Cleveland for Game 6 on Friday night (5/25) at The Q and, should the series go the distance, will wrap up back in Beantown for Game 7 on Sunday night (5/27) – all games, 8:30 p.m. ET.