DON’T REACH, YOUNG BLOOD

Irving shakes off playoff struggles with explosive 3rd qtr in Game 4 comeback win


Every Clevelander knows a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven is far from ideal, but the Cavaliers should be more than happy that they are looking at a two-win advantage and not at a tied series.

LeBron James, who scored only 11 points in Cleveland’s stunning loss to Boston in Game 3, continued to struggle in Game 4 at the Q. He did score 10 points in the first half, but he missed his four treys after being praised for his improved accuracy from that region, and he sat out a huge chunk of the second quarter because of foul trouble. Luckily for him, for Coach Tyronn Lue, and for the millions of former Heat fans (kidding), he had Kyrie-freaking-Irving as his right hand man.

The 25-year-old must have pumped Linsanity juice into his veins at the break since he went supernova in a third-quarter storm that saw him score 21 of his total 42 points (a playoff career-high!) via a wide array of moves. His handle and drives made fools of decent Boston defenders like Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart, and he stamped his third-quarter dominance with a last-second, step-back three-pointer that he launched from somewhere in Chicago (Yahoo labeled it as a 27-foot attempt, but it seemed like closer to 51).

“Coming out of halftime I just wanted to be aggressive, lead my guys and leave it all out there on the floor,” said Irving after the match.

Cleveland trailed 47-57 at the half, but entered the payoff period ahead 87-80, a furious 17-point swing that has been rare in this year’s playoffs. James finally got out of his shell in the fourth, scoring 15 of his total 34 in the final frame as the Cavs beat the Celts 112-99 for a 3-1 lead.

If we are to see a competitive Finals Three-Match between Cleveland and Golden State, we need to see more of this combustible Irving, more of this Irving that will make it hard for the Warriors to concentrate their nut-crunching defense (lol at Green) on James.

So I say, keep teachin’ Uncle Drew!

Because the Cavs were previously undefeated and LeBron has done a fantastic job of casting light to cover up Cleveland’s little weaknesses, it wasn’t obvious that Irving is struggling in these playoffs. In the first two sweeps, he did average good 23.8 ppg, but he shot only 39.9 % from the field and 28% from the arc. Again that’s good, though only if you are star point guard in the 1960s.

Irving finished with 11 points in their Game 1 victory over Boston, missing seven shots including all his hails from deep. But starting Game 2, his sniping has returned to its normal deadly flow and has helped Cleveland stretch Boston to its limits. He finished with 23 markers and made half of his six treys in their 44-point rout of the Celtics in Game 2, and the Cavs would have won Game 3 because Irving made four of his six threes and finished with 29 points, but LeBron channeled his 2011-Miami-self and mystically disappeared.

This Eastern Conference finals, which thankfully looks like a playoff series, will shift back to TD Garden, though the move might hurt Irving’s rhythm again since he is just 12-of-21 (28.5%) from deep in the four games he played in Boston this season. But coming off such fire-breathing game, he might not care where he is playing at all.

Again, a 3-1 lead? NEVER SAFE.

– Roland Quilente

Image from: News.com.AU

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