Dribbles: Cavs recover, now need to end series
Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' 112-99 win over the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday.
1. Kyrie Irving struggled for much of the first two rounds. He couldn't shoot. He looked tired. He just seemed out of sorts. And the Cavs swept everybody anyway.
2. Still, Irving needed a game like this. He needed a 42-point night -- a night where he simply took over when LeBron James was forced to sit (with four first-half fouls). Irving responded. He played like a champion again.
3. The Cavs needed someone to step up with that sort of heart. For a while, things looked dire. The Celtics were playing hard, playing smart and banking in 3-pointers. Everything was going their way. Nothing went right for the Cavs.
4. Now, the Celtics had something to do with that. But so did the Cavs. They were scrambling and trapping and nothing seemed to work. The Celtics were getting easy, open looks anyway.
5. Meanwhile, the only looks the Cavs were getting were ones of confusion from James and coach Tyronn Lue. After fumbling around and ultimately losing Game 3, the Cavs appeared every bit as discombobulated in the first half. Then Kyrie happened.
6. Lue on Irving: "He wanted to put the team on his shoulders, on his back, and let us ride him until LeBron got back. He did that."
7. James on Irving: "I've been saying he's a special kid, a special talent. As the stakes get higher, his game gets higher and higher."
8. James started slowly, settling for outside jumpers and acting casual with the basketball. It's odd how he seems to play with more energy on the road in the playoffs. Like so many great athletes, James sometimes needs to conjure up a reason to really want to drill the opponent. Usually, an opposing crowd is reason enough.
9. Then again, he didn't need an opposing crowd in the second half. He returned to being the LeBron of the first two games. He was taking the ball to the basket, drawing fouls (including a few that weren't called) and finishing at the rim. It was vintage James and when he decides it's time, there's nothing the Celtics can do about it.
1o. Kevin Love was also brilliant, displaying some real toughness inside as Tristan Thompson struggled to get to the boards. Love picked up the slack, scoring 17 points and crashing his way to 17 rebounds. If the Cavs are to end this thing Thursday in Boston, and have a real shot at another championship, this will need to continue from Love.
11. Some of the Cavs' flaws were exposed in the two home games. For one, their bench has been nonexistent. For another, they get lazy when they don't feel backed into a basketball corner. Same as it ever was on the second part.
12. When it comes to playoff rotations in the NBA, there are two types of coaches: Those who decide on their rotations BEFORE a series and stick with it, and those who go by feel during games. Lue is the first one. That is why Richard Jefferson is playing more this series and Channing Frye suddenly can't get off the bench.
13. Maybe it's just me, but it may not be a bad idea to see more Frye in Thursday's Game 5. The Cavs could use the additional perimeter threat and length. If nothing else, I think we can all expect to see more of Frye in the Finals.
14. Nothing wrong with Lue's approach, by the way. It's just different. Again, he decides on a rotation prior to series, and that is apparently the way it's staying.
15. I'll have plenty more between now and Thursday, so keep checking back. It's hard to believe we are down to, at most, 10 games left in the NBA season. And I highly doubt things will last even that long.
16. Here is more in our quick recap. Talk to you soon.