Cavaliers Beat Celtics 112-99 in Game 4, Lead Series 3-1

For a half, it seemed like anything was possible.

But then reality set in.

After leading by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Boston Celtics lost 112-99 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

Kyrie Irving, playing the role usually filled by LeBron James, scored 42 points to will the Cavs to a 3-1 series lead.

James struggled early, picking up 4 fouls in the first half for the first time in his career and badly missing an easy dunk in the third quarter. But he played well when it mattered down the stretch, finishing with 34 points. Not bad for an off game.

In the end, Boston just didn't have enough heroics - or bank-shot threes - to get it done.

Avery Bradley, who had a poor shooting night, led the Celtics with 19 points. Jae Crowder added 18 and Al Horford 16.

The defending NBA champions, who shot 71 percent in the second half, opened a can now wrap up their third straight conference title with a win in Game 5 on Thursday night in Boston.

But if Games 3 and 4 are any indication, it won't be easy.

Fighting to keep their season alive, the Celtics aren't giving an inch despite playing without All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who may need surgery on a hip injury.

The Cavs, meanwhile, wouldn't be on the cusp of the Finals without Irving.

Freezing Boston defenders with his dribble and driving to the basket whenever he wanted, Irving made six layups, two 3-pointers and a free throw in a dizzying span of 4:48. He capped his blistering 19-point outburst with a 3 in the final second of the quarter and celebrated at mid-court by pretending to put two pistols back in his holster.

"He saw Bron went out and he wanted to put the team on his shoulders," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He did that."

Irving said he was driven by the thought of the Cavs seeing their series lead vanish.

"In the back of my mind, I thought, 'They can't tie up the series,'" he said. "We can't go back to Boston tied 2-2. We needed everything tonight.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was disappointed with his team's defense on Irving, who was able to spread the floor while surrounded by shooters.

"There's choices," Stevens said. "I'm not sure there are good choices. When he gets going like that, he's tough to stop. The ones we gotta look at are the ones he got at the rim."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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