Irving's special night previews passing of Cavs torch from James

Ross Houston
May 26, 2017

Asked to give a reason for Boston's second half problems, Celtics coach Brad Stevens had a simple answer: "Kyrie Irving and LeBron James". "He's built for this".

"He's got to be aggressive, get downhill, play like he's been playing, play confident", Smith said Monday after practice.

But Kyrie Irving had other plans in mind as he kept Cleveland close when James was out, and in the 3rd quarter was able to help push his team past Boston.

With Cleveland in jeopardy of dropping its second game in a row after James followed an 11-point Game 3 by picking up four first-half fouls, Irving put on a breathtaking one-man show in the third quarter.

Still, those two facts fail to fully portray the sudden inevitability of Irving's personal eruption.

For six minutes and 46 seconds in the second quarter of Game 4, LeBron James wasn't on the floor.

If you think that was adversity, Thomas turned in, undoubtedly, the best performance of the post-season, and his career, when he dropped 53 points on the Wizards in Game 2 to lead the Celtics to an overtime win. That outburst started when James came off the floor in the second quarter. All of that was before his remarkable run during these National Basketball Association playoffs, when he played through the tragic death of his sister and repeated health issues - including multiple dental procedures and an ongoing hip injury - to lead Boston back to the conference finals. The numbers support that assertion: Irving ranked in the 95th percentile of isolation scorers this season. The Cavs hope to put the same kind of pressure on the Celtics in Game 5, then get a week to recuperate before the Finals begin in Oakland on June 1. The only thing Boston's win accomplished was shortening what would have been a nine-day break between games to seven.

Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier represent unique challenges for ballhandlers. Thanks to all those high-percentage shots, the Cavaliers hit an otherworldly 71.1 percent of their shots in a second half their fans won't soon forget.

Irving's run was nearly cut short by injury.

Irving also rolled an ankle on a drive and bucket with 1:47 left in the third but was able to stay in the game.

"The stuff they're running, it's harder to defend than Golden State's (offense) for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it's a totally different thing", Lue said.

Remember Game 7 last June in Oracle Arena? What more does this guy need to do to be considered world class?

Said Al Horford: "A lot of energy".

"Some of the plays that we made, some of the plays that I made, I was like, 'What are we doing?' or 'What could I have done better?' But you figure out the next game and go forward". "I've been against all odds my whole life, but that's not going to stop me".

I thought the Boston Celtics choked when they took Jaylen Brown in last year's draft.

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