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Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by bobheckler on Wed May 24, 2017 8:48 am

http://www.masslive.com/celtics/index.ssf/2017/05/kyrie_irving_lebron_james_bost.html#incart_river_index



Kyrie Irving, LeBron James too much for Boston Celtics in Game 4


Updated on May 24, 2017 at 7:38 AM Posted on May 24, 2017 at 6:00 AM
2017 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: Brad Stevens tips hat to Kyrie Irving,...



BY JAY KING



CLEVELAND -- Superstars matter most.

The Boston Celtics have known that truth, of course. It's why they cleared room to chase Kevin Durant, why they stood pat at the trade deadline, and one reason why they may choose to keep the No. 1 overall pick. They can reach a strong level of play already -- a great one, sometimes -- but don't yet have the power to keep pace at the highest level of basketball.

Even while falling Tuesday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 112-99, the Celtics forced Kyrie Irving and LeBron James to be special. There's honor in that -- ask any of the teams the Cavaliers have dispatched over the past three postseasons -- but Irving (42 points, 15-for-22 shooting) and James (34 points, six assists, five rebounds, 15-for-27 shooting) flew to a place Boston couldn't reach.

Irving took his turn first, carrying the Cavaliers after James picked up his fourth foul early in the second quarter. That stretch might have been the most important of Game 4; after James hit the bench and the Celtics advantage reached 16 points, Irving danced with the basketball, spun in shots, and refused to let the Cavaliers deficit widen. They could have caved in that moment, but he put on one of the best individual shows in a career full of them. In the back of his mind, he said, he realized Boston had set itself up to even the series.


"I'm saying to myself, 'They cannot tie up this series,'" Irving explained later. "They cannot. We cannot go to Boston 2-2 and then it becomes almost an even series.'"

Boston still led 57-47 at halftime, but wanted a larger gap -- and maybe even deserved one.

"The first half we played some of the best basketball we played all season," Jaylen Brown said, "against one of the best teams in basketball."

That's true, but Irving kept going in the third quarter, during which he twisted his ankle, dealt with a bevy of defenders, and still scored 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting. He's known for elite shot-making, but even for him the stretch shrieked with ridiculousness. On the final possession of the third, he isolated on Terry Rozier, dribbled between his legs, and drilled a step-back jumper from Pluto:


(Screen shot courtesy of NBA.com)


"We had really good athletes, quick guys that make things tough on people, guarding him, and he was able to raise up and make a lot of tough shots," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "He was able to get by us and make tough shots in the paint. Again, sometimes I think that -- I'll go look at it and see all the things that we did wrong, but I think it's more of a tip-your-hat kind of thing with those two guys tonight."

Boston's defense slipped after halftime, when the help didn't always arrive with enough force at the right time. Stevens wished his team had done more to contest certain shots at the rim and labeled nine second-half turnovers "a killer for us." Jae Crowder thought the Celtics should have loaded up on Irving, once he reached nirvana, to force the ball out of his hands. Al Horford pointed out that his club's floor balance fell apart late, damaging the transition defense.

But a number of Celtics players agreed they fell victim to greatness.

"Kyrie came out and balled," said Jaylen Brown. "I tip my hat off to him."

"I'm going to have to look at the film and see but we felt like we were right there, Irving just kinda took it to another level," added Horford. "I felt like we played well enough to win. He had one of those special nights.

"He was doing a little bit of everything. He's a great player. He did it and then, obviously, LeBron got it going then."

The same way Irving owned the third quarter, James controlled the fourth. He took the baton and bashed the Celtics over the head with it, scoring 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the frame, making sure Horford's clutch buckets didn't matter. The Celtics threatened to pull close several times, but James never let them. Punishing a number of switches, he helped the Cavaliers shoot an absurd 71.1 percent after halftime.

Elite playmakers are the toughest type of player to find, which, in this writer's opinion, is why the Celtics shouldn't spend much time thinking about trading Isaiah Thomas. He's a defensive liability, sure, in ways that matter more as the playoffs progress. But he's so dynamic he makes up for it and then some at the other end of the court. He scored 53 points in a playoff game this season and went for 29 and 12 in a Game 7. Maybe it's right to worry ever so slightly about how he handled heightened defensive pressure later in the playoffs, but he was dealing with a right hip injury that could require surgery. Before Thomas' regular burst abandoned him, nobody slowed him down.


Boston will need to add size to maximize the roster around Thomas -- lineups with him, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart were shredded this season, suggesting tiny three-guard combinations won't hold up. Still, assuming Thomas' injured hip is not a long-term issue, keeping him should be an easy choice. Chase Gordon Hayward, draft Markelle Fultz, grow organically, continue scanning the trade market, and see if the Cavaliers develop more cracks down the road. They don't have much roster flexibility and, one day, I swear, James will start to age.

His team won't be this great forever. But for now Irving, James and the Cavaliers can soar to a different altitude than the Celtics or anyone else in the Eastern Conference.

"That Boston Celtics team is very well-coached, and they gave us everything (they) had, and we had to withstand some runs," Irving said. "You know that Celtics team is not going to give up, and they're going to continue to attack us, and we have to be able to face adversity, look it in the face and say you're not going to win today."

There's nothing shameful about testing the Cavaliers but failing to knock them off. For the first two quarters, the Celtics played some of their crispest basketball, cutting, defending and racking up 17 assists on 21 buckets. They even held Tristan Thompson to one offensive rebound, a noble feat considering how many problems he normally gives them.


Given how Boston played before halftime, Stevens said, "That stings when you can't pull those out."

Regardless of what the rest of the world expected when the series moved to Cleveland, the Celtics believed they could win. That was clear when they refused to waver in Game 3, and it was evident again when they picked apart the Cavaliers defense at the start of Game 4.

Credit the Celtics for fighting back on the road. They deserve praise for a wonderful half of basketball Tuesday night, but fell shy of the greatness needed to hold off a pair of greats.



______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

http://www.espn.com/blog/boston/celtics/post/_/id/4726162/without-isaiah-thomas-celtics-crumble-as-cavaliers-stars-step-up



Without Isaiah Thomas, Celtics crumble as Cavaliers' stars step up





12:45 AM PT



Chris Forsberg
ESPN Staff Writer




CLEVELAND -- Well, that ought to put an end to the notion that the Boston Celtics are a better team without All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas.

For much of the first half of Tuesday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it might have been OK to ponder that suggestion. After all, the Thomas-less Celtics had rallied from 21 points down for an improbable Game 3 victory two nights earlier and Boston might have played its best basketball of the series over the first 18 minutes of Game 4.

The Celtics were spectacular at the start of Tuesday's game. Boston zipped the ball around the court while generating 17 assists on 21 first-half makes. Boston limited both its turnovers and Cleveland's second-chance opportunities. Maybe most startling of all, the Celtics got LeBron James into early foul trouble.

In that moment, with a double-digit lead and James going to the bench with more than six minutes to play in the second quarter, Celtics fans could daydream about the series coming back to Boston tied 2-2. A win would have restored home-court advantage for the Celtics, while the Cavaliers might have been questioning themselves.


Al Horford helped keep the Celtics competitive on Tuesday night, finishing with 16 points, on 7-for-11 shooting, and a game-high seven assists. David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images


So how, exactly, did the Cavaliers burst that bubble?

"Kyrie Irving and LeBron James would be the two answers," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.


Irving and James paired up for 48 second-half points, topping the scoring output of Boston's entire roster by six in that span. The Celtics reverted to bad habits -- turnovers, rushed shots, haphazard rebounding -- and watched Irving and his game-high 42 points rally Cleveland to a 112-99 triumph at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Cavaliers own a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series and can lock in a much-hyped NBA Finals rubber match with the Golden State Warriors with a win Thursday night.

Boston's second-half struggles juxtaposed to the dominance of Irving and James essentially spoiled the hopes of any sports yakker who was preparing to sound off about Thomas. Game 3 reminded us that Boston can be competitive, but its lack of elite talent is simply more pronounced against a team like the Cavaliers.

The Celtics needed someone they could lean on in the fourth quarter. Al Horford did his best for a stretch, and his back-to-back buckets had the Celtics within six with under six minutes to play. But there would be no clutch baskets, no watch taps, no proclamations that fans inside The Q knew what time it was.

The Celtics had missed their initial chance to extend their 10-point lead when James picked up his fourth foul with 6 minutes, 46 seconds to play in the second quarter. It should have been a chance for the Celtics to really pad their lead before James could return at the start of the third quarter.


Instead, it was the start of Irving's takeover. He scored Cleveland's next 10 points and Boston needed a couple of layups in the final minute of the first half just to restore the 10-point advantage it had when James checked out.

Asked if he felt his team missed an opportunity to stretch its lead with James off the court, Stevens was quick to point out the benefits of a talent-gushing roster.

"They still have two All-Stars out on the court," said Stevens, referencing Irving and Kevin Love. "With the best player in the world [off the court, it's] unreal, but they're still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there."

The Celtics smothered Irving with praise and suggested there are simply nights when the NBA's best players are capable of taking over on a big stage. But you can't help but wonder if things might have been different if the Celtics had Thomas to steady the offense when it endured brief scoring lulls.

Remember that, during the regular season, the Celtics owned an offensive rating of 113.8 with Thomas on the court, or a half-point better than the Warriors' much-ballyhooed offense. Yes, Thomas has defensive deficiencies because of his 5-foot-9 stature, but the Celtics so very much need him to consistently generate points.

Even James -- who overcame foul trouble and a missed breakaway dunk to finish with 34 points on 15-of-27 shooting -- admitted the Celtics just are not the same without Thomas' presence.

"They're a different team when I.T. is -- I won't say a different team, they run different things just because of I.T. being a huge piece of the puzzle for them, offensively," James said.

Without Thomas, you can make the case that the Cavaliers have the three best players remaining in this series (though Horford could make a case for one of those spots), including James, whom Stevens keeps referring to as "the best player in the world."

James praised Stevens, too, but the talent disparity has simply been too much for even Boston's coach to overcome. For key stretches late in the third quarter, the Celtics leaned heavily on players like rookie Jaylen Brown, second-year guard Terry Rozier and center Tyler Zeller. Clearly, not having Thomas and the trickle-down effect on the roster has an obvious impact.

James gushed again about Stevens' after-timeout plays and how they are among the most creative plays he has seen and how they've routinely given the Celtics quality looks. James essentially credited Stevens for helping Boston remain competitive.

"So they had to kind of reshape [without Thomas] and that's the beauty of having Brad Stevens as your coach," James said. "You're able to reshape what you do offensively and still be in a good rhythm. It's been challenging for us to kind of -- plays out of timeout, [they've] kind of been killing us on ATOs and keeping us off-balance, but in the second half we kind of got a little bit of rhythm and think we'll be better in Game 5."

The Celtics have repeatedly stressed that Thomas is out for the remainder of the postseason no matter how long this series lasts. Which means that if Boston is to truly make things interesting and prolong its season for at least another few days, it'll need players to step up and show poise on a big stage.

As Irving and James went to another level Tuesday night, the Celtics had no one who could quite match them. To the credit of Boston's players, they refused to use Thomas' absence as an excuse for why the team is on the brink of elimination.

Instead, the Celtics embraced their adversity. They've routinely thrived in tough situations this season. They'd also like to atone to their home crowd for two forgettable performances to start the series.


"We're humble enough to know that we haven't played well at home, and we want to give our home crowd a better outing than we did the past two games," Jae Crowder said. "We're right there where we want to be, we're locked in."

Still, the gap between a locked-in Celtics team and an engaged Cavaliers squad might be too wide to overcome. It's fair to wonder how much different things would be with a healthy Thomas.

While acknowledging that Boston is without its leader, Avery Bradley, who led the team with 19 points, hopes it can rise to the challenge in Thursday's Game 5.

"We owe our fans a better performance, and we know that. And we're going to play hard," he said. "You're going to see a team playing hard, very hard, the entire game."

That alone might not be enough. The Celtics could really use a superstar like Thomas.


bob


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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by bobheckler on Wed May 24, 2017 9:32 am

I'm going to lay the blame for this loss at the feet of Avery Bradley.  We had the Cavs right where we wanted them.  Up 16 in the 2nd quarter, LeBron sitting with his 4 foul (first time in his career he had 4 fouls in a half) and we're looking good.  Then, Kyrie Irving went off like a roman candle and most of his career playoff-high 42 points came against Bradley.   In fact, Cleveland was able to reduce that 16 point deficit to 10 with James on the bench because of Irving.  I don't have the advanced metrics to confirm this, but my eyeballs told me that while nobody did a good job containing him most of the points Kyrie scored against Smart and Rozier were from outside while he was constantly driving past Bradley to the rim.  Granted, we could have rotated better to help on the penetrations but they were almost all off-the-dribble and not off a high pick.  That means it was Bradley's job to stay in front of his man, since there wasn't anybody out there trying to rub him off.  Furthermore, Bradley shot a KoME-like 7-19 and 1-7 from 3.  If you're going to take 24% of your team's fgas you cannot shoot 37% on them.  Most of his shots were short, which is often indicative of tired legs.  He had an amazing series vs Chicago, where he outplayed Jimmy Butler, but John Wall had career games against him and now Kyrie.  He's shooting 29-75 this series against Cleveland.  38.6%, so him shooting us out of game 4 isn't that much different from what he did in the games 1-3.

Marcus Smart turned back into Marcus Smart.  There were those who fell for the fool's gold of his game 3 offense, that he suddenly went from being a ham-handed offensive player to the Second Coming of Ray Allen, but that's not real life.  In real life, when you don't have a left hand like I'm starting to think Smart doesn't have, you struggle to score.  Has anybody else noticed that, about his left hand?  He can take a few dribbles with his left hand, but not very fast dribbles and not on the run, and I cannot remember ever seeing him take a shot, even at the rim, with his left even when that would be the easier, less-contested shot.  1-9 is bad even for Smart.  Our starting back court was 8-28 for 28.5%.  For those touting how great a defensive back court that is the Cleveland back court shot 17-26. Put those offensive and defensive numbers together and this is NOT a championship back court.  Let's face it. Smart had a very un-Smart-like game. Take that anomaly out and it puts too much pressure on the rest of the team to score. It's not even 4-on-5, it's 3-on-5.

Look at the shooting for the rest of the team:
Crowder 6-12, 50%
Horford 7-11, 63.6%
Olynyk 5-10, 50%
Jerebko 2-4, 50%
Brown 3-5, 60%
Rozier 2-5, 40%

One player under 50% on this list, and that one with limited fgas, 2 players under 40% and those 2 are starters playing starter minutes and taking starter fgas.

We gave up another 40 point quarter.  It's amazing we've come as far as we have with Swiss cheese defense like that.

Jaylen played well.  So did Rozier.  Loved his putback of his own miss.  Damn, both of them got hops!  The future looks bright.  All Rozier needs to do to replace Bradley is work on his shooting.  It's better than it was last year and I'm sure it'll be better next year over this year.  Remember, it took Bradley a few years before his offense was better than cringeworthy and more diverse than just getting fed backdoor cut passes from Rondo.

The bottom line, though, is that superstars rule the league.  That's why, given the coming out parties for Jaylen and Terry, I'm leaning towards keeping the #1 pick nexst month.  I'm not a big fan of the draft but look at #1 pick Kyrie Irving, look at what he's worth to that team (LeBron's a #1 pick too but he's a freak and I don't see him as what anybody should expect from a #1).  Same with John Wall. I don't know who the best pick for us is, although I'd say having a killer, unstoppable scorer would be high on the list and that would mean Fultz, but my point is we need one of those type of players and we need one that will either grow with us for years like Jaylen and Terry and Smart or that is a veteran that will win for us now with IT, Horford and the other veterans.  With Zizic and TDB (The Dancing Bear) incoming that means, barring trades of some of our existing youth, we are going to be getting a lot younger and that's not a Championship recipe.

http://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400953697


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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by sinus007 on Wed May 24, 2017 9:36 am

Hi,
It looked like Celtics went all-in: they put everything, physically and emotionally, on the line in the first half and didn't have anything left in the tank to keep the lead in the second half.
I'm very proud of this team.

AK
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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by dboss on Wed May 24, 2017 11:04 am

When you play against great players you have to double team them  to slow them down.  That is what teams do to contain IT and that is what it takes to slow  down Irving.

I cannot think of any player in the NBA that can check Irving.  He's that good and when he gets going he becomes unstoppable.

What about the guy who went for 17 and 17.  Who was covering him.  

There was great effort by the Celtics but the Cavs are a better team.

You cannot lay the blame of a loss on one player.

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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by kdp59 on Wed May 24, 2017 11:08 am

sinus007 wrote:Hi,
It looked like Celtics went all-in: they put everything, physically and emotionally, on the line in the first half and didn't have anything left in the tank to keep the lead in the second half.
I'm very proud of this team.

AK

i agree, sometimes the other team just has better players. no shame in playing hard and fighting but coming up short.

I do hope we can pull one more win out for the home fans though, but I bet the Cav's will be on point and all in to finish us off.
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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by NYCelt on Wed May 24, 2017 12:01 pm

I'll go with the prevailing thought here as well.  Great display of heart by an overmatched Celtic team.

I think Boston has shown real progress this year.  We all know the three things we need to be in serious contention, and we're getting there.  This is a fun team to watch and could become even more so next season.

Cleveland and Golden State are way ahead of everyone right now (with San Antonio fading).  That will change, and we should be ready when it does.
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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by mrkleen09 on Wed May 24, 2017 12:26 pm

Love the optimism in (most) of this thread, and know Bob bleeds as deep a shade of green as anyone, so no big deal.

Celtics played hard, played loose, played with passion and did things with purpose in the first half. Second half they ran into a great player who was hot as anyone I have seen not named IT, so not much you can say. You need a player who is also hot - that forces someone like Kyrie to play D -which is not his strong point. That didnt happen and the Celtics STILL made a game of it down the stretch.

Learn and grow and as NYCELT says - we will be ready when the window opens further. That day is coming soon.
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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by RosalieTCeltics on Wed May 24, 2017 1:29 pm

I totally agree, Bradley never stopped hustling out there, he played his heart out. It is easy to blame one guy, but the whole team should share the blame. Why did they not find a way of going to Al more? They resorted to playing hero ball in the fourth quarter, hoping against hope that one of them would get hot and win the game for the team. Kelly was good at certain times but out of control at others. This so typical of him.

So let's not just blame one guy, it was a team loss. Irving, as much as I can't stand him, is one hell of a shooter when he gets going. I said at the half that there was no way LeBron would foul out of that game and I was right. He finally came to life and played the way he is so capable of playing and that was the frosting on the cake.
Love had 17 rebounds, was that Avery's fault??

I am beside myself that we had this game in our hands and reverted back to the way we lost the other games. But, there is a bright side to all of this.We won game three and forced them to come back here to Boston. They hate this. They wanted four straight. and we did not let them get it. Let's force a game six.....that will really tick them off.

Poor IT. this has to be killing him.

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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by cowens/oldschool on Wed May 24, 2017 1:47 pm

bob as I was watching the game I was amazed with the shots Kyrie was hitting with AB draped all over him. AB's defense wasn't that bad, Kyrie was just in an incredible zone. If he can reach that zone say 3 more times next series Cavs will be champions.

Was loving our defense and execution on offense in first half, then Cavs made defensive adjustments and stopped the high post offense we run. Not that I'm picking on him, but KO had a bunch of bad turnovers, missed bunnies that sure helped Cavs get their transition game going right when they needed it, Smart hit a big 3, then a steal, but it wasn't enough as Lebron then took over. We played hard, some glimmers, but Cavs have 2 bonafide first team all NBA talents in Lebron and Kyrie. When those 2 guys are on, they are hard to beat....would be nice if we had a board monster/glass cleaner that could limit Love's 17-17.
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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by bobheckler on Wed May 24, 2017 3:10 pm

Ok, so I'm outvoted on Bradley but, Cowens, how many times Irving drive past AB to the rim?  Was Kyrie unconscious from outside last night?  Yep, but I'll still take him taking an "are you shitting me!?" shot from 25', and hope he misses, than a bunny.  

As far as Kelly's TOs, he had 2 on the night.  That's not too bad since he had 3 assists (an assist-to-TO ratio of 1.5:1 is ok for a big).  He also had 2 blocks.  How many blocks, total, did the Celtics have last night?  Two.  Yeah, he blew a couple at the rim early in the 1st quarter, not in crunch time, but he ended up 7-14.  Could he have ended up 9-14?  Sure, but 7-14 isn't shabby neither and 2 points count the same whether they are in the 1st half or the 2nd.  He started out 1-4, ended the 1st quarter 3-8 and was 4-9 at the half.  So, a cold start for Kelly but he started to pull himself together, settled down a bit, and improved steadily through the game.  


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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by hawksnestbeach on Wed May 24, 2017 5:52 pm

I'm proud of the Celts for not rolling over. I don't fault Bradley, but one benefit from this post-season is the chance to evaluate everyone, including him, under pressure. Like Rosalie, like everyone no doubt, I agree that nothing could be finer than one more win. (Except more wins.) In any case, it has been a good season because we're on the upswing as we head into a draft with the number one pick. Go Green!

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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by worcester on Wed May 24, 2017 8:42 pm

None of Kyrie's drives to the basket were bunny shots. He had some incredible acrobatics going on to put the ball in the basket many times. We lost. We played hard and with heart. I'm still proud of these guys. We have already had a GREAT season. One more win would be a delight. Three more would be nirvana. Seven more would be #18 and heavenly.
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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by RosalieTCeltics on Wed May 24, 2017 9:10 pm

Excellent Worcester!!!!!!
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Re: Post Game Thread - vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Away, EC Finals Game 4

Post by steve3344 on Thu May 25, 2017 1:56 am

Amazing that in approximately three quarters, from midway through the third quarter of game 3 when we trailed by 21 to midway through the second quarter of game 4 when we were up 49-33, the Celtics outscored the Cavs 104-64. By 40 points! Disheartening that Cleveland flipped the switch at that point and ended the game on a 79-50 run to win it 112-99. I don't think it was fatigue on our part. I just think Kyrie and Lebron happened. Those guys were incredible when Cleveland looked like they might lose that one also and they weren't about to let that happen. Hope we have enough healthy bodies to give them a battle in game 5.

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