Dribbles: Cavs fight, rise, reset East finals

Could Cavaliers star LeBron James take a year off from the NBA?

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles from the Cavaliers’ 111-102 victory over the visiting Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday.

1. Three-game series. Cavs have some momentum. Cavs have LeBron James. Celtics have homecourt advantage. Celtics still have plenty of heart and determination. Basically, that is where we stand today.

2. So, who has the edge? When it comes to this series, it’s hard to say. Fact is, it’s tied at 2-all. And for the time being, perhaps we should just stick to the facts.

3. I”ll be honest. I don’t know whether to praise the Cavs for the way they played most of the night … or rip them for letting the Celtics back in it with a couple of stagnant and lazy stretches. This doesn’t feel like a game the Cavs would’ve won had it been in Boston. Then again, it wasn’t in Boston. And the Cavs did win.

4. See what I mean about sticking to the facts? Anything else is just too confusing.

5. You have to like how the Cavs played in the first half, how they came out with energy and took it to the Celtics right away. I had my doubts about the energy part. But quite honestly, the first quarter was the difference in this game.

6. That said, the Cavs had yet ANOTHER of those stink-o third quarters where everyone just sort of stood around and didn’t really hustle on defense. The Celtics are fighters. They’re too young to know they’re supposed to mail it in when they get down big. They just keep fighting, scratching, clawing, shoving … and the Cavs always seem to struggle with teams that play so incredibly hard and physical.

7. But a win is a win is win at this time of the year, and the series is tied at 2-all with Game 5 Wednesday in Boston. Those are the facts, and they cannot be disputed. Everything else and where this series may go next? Yeah, that’s probably up for debate.

8. Celtics coach Brad Stevens described it this way: “Best two out of three to get to the NBA Finals. It doesn’t get better than that.”

9. For the Cavs, it doesn’t get better then yet another 40-point eruption from LeBron James. Actually, he scored 44 and interestingly, made just one 3-pointer along with way. Overall, James went 17-of-28 from the floor and 9-of-13 on free throws. Yet I’m pretty certain he’s had better all-around games.

10. James did commit seven turnovers. And he did only pass for an un-LeBron-like three assists. And there were times that he and he alone was responsible for a couple of major defensive breakdowns — as James was caught on camera refusing to switch, step out on a shooter or offer some help. But this is LeBron we’re talking about, and his overall grade remains an A-plus.

11. Interestingly, James scored 44 and had some help. Kyle Korver was fantastic in the first half, scoring all 14 of his points and swatting TWO shots by talented (and considerably younger) Celtics standout Jaylen Brown.

12. Later, Korver threw his 37-year-old body to the ground in a chase of a loose ball. Later still, he hit the floor hard while trying to take a charge (it was ruled a block). On this night, Korver became so much more than just the Cavs’ best perimeter marksman.

13. LeBron on Korver: “I’ve loved Kyle ever since we made the trade to get him here. He’s just a true professional. It’s not about his age. … He’s doing whatever it takes to help us win.”

14. Korver was just one example on a night full of underrated efforts from the non-LeBrons. Tristan Thompson scored 13 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and acted as a constant irritant near the rim. George Hill also scored 13 and played an overall heady, steady and energetic game. And Larry Nance Jr. was a plus-12 in his first six minutes, before finishing with seven points and three rebounds.

15. Thompson and Nance Jr. have bonded and the two often work out together. It’s good that they gave such a strong showing, as the Cavs’ other big men, Kevin Love and Jeff Green, put forth a couple of clunkers. Love went just 3-of-12 shooting for nine points, though he did hit an important three and collect 11 boards. Green, meanwhile, couldn’t seem to get out of his own way most of the night.

16. Either way, the Cavs will really need more Love moving forward. He has struggled with physical, relentless teams like the Celtics. While his numbers are sometimes good, the eye test will tell you it’s about more than numbers. Sometimes, you’re team needs toughness and leadership. Thompson has offered that for the Cavs in this series; Love has not.

17. Brown led the Celtics with 25 points, but Shaker Heights product and point guard Terry Rozier was probably their MVP. He scored 16 points, passed for 11 assists and grabbed six rebounds. Rozier is having a career year, the type of year that eventually gets a guy huge paycheck. It will be interesting to see what happens with Rozier next season when Kyrie Irving returns.

18. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue on Game 5: “The message is have the same approach going into Boston. I think playing with more speed and more pace, pushing the basketball. I think taking care of the basketball is the most important, especially on the road. You don’t want to turn the ball over when you get to Boston because they really thrive off that — with dunks, threes, layups. The message is just continue to play like we played at home but take care of the basketball (as the Cavs comitted a whopping 19 turnovers).”

1 Comment on "Dribbles: Cavs fight, rise, reset East finals"

  1. I disagree on Love. He had a crappy game for the most part, got punked on defense and had some mental letdowns, missed a couple bunnies, but it’s hard to have a great game and be aggressive when you’re in and out because of foul trouble (on terrible calls) the whole game. Unlike in Indiana, he came back in the 4th quarter and had a big impact. Who knows where the Cavs would have been without that big 3 and monster putback. I know Love is paid like a star, but he’s not featured like a star and the system is not geared toward his strengths, so sometimes you have to deal with some clunkers. If Lebron has a crappy game and makes a bunch of big plays down the stretch for the win, we praise him, so I think Love should get the same benefit of the doubt.

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