Carrying over their momentum from their dominating Game 3 victory, the Cleveland Cavaliers tied this Eastern Conference Finals series at two games a piece with a 111-102 win over the Boston Celtics Monday night.
The Cavaliers’ offensive onslaught resumed in Game 4 as if Game 3 never ended. After shooting over 48 percent from the field and 50 percent from three on Saturday, Cleveland followed that performance with 61 percent field goals and made six of their first 11 three pointers in the first half.
The Cavs’ prolific shooting resulted in the highest total the Celtics have given up all year at 68 first half points, leading to a 15-point halftime deficit. The only reason the game wasn’t an utter blowout was due to the fact that the Celtics were able to force eight first half turnovers.
Boston looked rattled and frustrated on offense early. Jaylen Brown was forcing the issue too much and the ball didn’t move side to side like it did in the first two games of this series.
LeBron was comfortable exploiting Terry Rozier on switches and it didn’t help that Boston had some uncharacteristic mental lapses on defense. He made a living inside, only attempting four threes. He finished with 44 points.
Kyle Korver gave the Cavs a boost off the bench once again, scoring 14 points and playing some excellent defense on Brown especially. Korver has been Cleveland’s second best player in this series, which is a surprising development since most thought he’d be neutralized by Boston’s athletic wings and smothering three point defense.
The Celtics had some serious work to do if they hoped to take a 3-1 series lead and dispel their road playoff struggles. Al Horford, who only had four shot attempts in Game 3 saw an uptick in shot attempts but wasn’t able to knock down enough of his looks. Horford ended with 15 points, while he, Tatum and Brown finished a combined 21-49 from the field.
Throughout the second half the Celtics continued to hang around. Cleveland continued to turn the ball over as Boston attacked the rim with more conviction. They cut the Cavalier lead to single digits but struggled to get enough stops to completely close the gap.
The Cavs entered the fourth quarter with a 89-76 lead.
After struggling with his matchup with Korver, Brown finally imposed his will on the 15-year veteran. Boston attacked mismatches with James sitting to start the fourth, cutting the lead to eight and forcing the Cavs’ hand to put LeBron back in the game.
The Celtics were finally forcing the Cavs into bad shots but couldn’t capitalize. Kevin Love put back a contested fade away by JR Smith, further adding on to Cleveland’s 47-37 edge on the glass, and James got an easy layup in transition to take the lead back to 11 after Boston cut it to six.
Both teams continued to trade shots, but the Celtics couldn’t afford the game to go that way down the stretch. They needed stops but they couldn’t get this Cavs team to completely unravel in crunch like Philadelphia did in the second round.
With the series tied at 2-2 and headed back to Boston, the complexion of the outcome has gone from a definite Celtics win to a toss-up once again. Game 5 will be on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST in TD Garden as the Celtics once again find themselves in a highly contested playoff series with LeBron.