Things were looking pretty bleak for the Cavs when LeBron went to the bench with four fouls about halfway through the second quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. They had just blown a big lead in Game 3 and suffered their first loss of the postseason. Until that point, they had flown through the playoffs with ease and set themselves up for another date with the the Golden State Warriors in a third straight NBA Finals. The last game and a half had not followed the script and gone according to plan though.
Even though Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were hot from the field in Game 3, LeBron seemed unengaged and was playing very poorly. Irving and Love combined to shoot 18-31 from the field including 11-19 from beyond the arc, and they scored 29 and 28 points respectively. LeBron finished 4-13 for 11 points and played probably his worst postseason game since his first NBA Finals with the Heat. Most people though that LeBron would come out attacking and playing at a high level at the beginning of Game 4 and drive to the hoop at will like he did in the first two games of the series, but something still seemed off.
The Cavs had fallen behind by double digits again in the second quarter when LeBron was called for a couple of questionable fouls. He was relegated to the bench for the rest of the half. It was the first time he had four fouls in the first half in his career. With the King unable to bring the Cavs back from their deficit, they had to turn to Kyrie to bail them out. Kyrie has been having a poor shooting postseason so far and has really been the odd man out of the big three in the playoffs. The team has made it a priority to get Kevin Love involved, and LeBron was on a record run scoring over 30 points a game and getting his teammates involved as well.
With the future of the series in doubt, and the Cavs staring down a potential second straight loss to an Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics team, Irving stepped up and delivered for his team. Kyrie scored 19 points in less than 5 minutes to get the Cavs back into the game. It was an incredible display of of acrobatic driving finishes and deep, step-back threes. Kyrie continued his incredible display into the second half and scored a total of 33 points in a 19 minute stretch. He finished the game with 42 points on a blistering 15-22 from the field that included 4-7 from three-point range.
Kyrie was able to dominate the game and give Cavs’ fans a reason to be optimistic about what the future of the organization will look like once LeBron is unable to perform the way he is now. His takeover took some of the pressure off of LeBron, so he was able to get back into his flow when he returned in the second half. LeBron was able to play off of Kyrie and take advantage of the Celtics also devoting more attention to him. LeBron was able to end up with 34 points and have a stat-line similar to the ones we are used to seeing in the postseason. Kevin Love also stepped up by playing big on the boards. He grabbed 17 rebounds to go with his 17 points.
Even though it was scary for Cavs’ fans to watch LeBron go through that rough stretch and not seem like the invincible guy that carried the team through the playoffs to that point, it was nice to see that Kyrie is still able to step up when he’s needed. He turned the whole game around and was able to get the the big three really running on all cylinders. The team is trying to peak at the right time and be ready for another finals date with the Warriors. Kyrie rounding back into his form from last year’s NBA Finals is a great sign for the Cavs and their chances in the title round.