Celtics look to avoid elimination in Boston on KPUG

Doug Mendoza
June 1, 2017

And every move Ainge makes between now and then will be viewed through the prism of how it impacts his star guard.

LeBron James passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer in the playoffs. Now, the Cavaliers can clinch their third straight trip to the NBA Finals Thursday night, where the Golden State Warriors await.

The Celtics, playing the final three-plus games without an injured Thomas, were taken out by the Cavaliers in five games.

The circumstances were different and the primary architect of the comeback was Irving instead of James, but Cleveland fighting back from 16 points down was in some ways reminiscent of the 26-point half-time deficit they erased in Game Three of their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers.

"I knew that if we kept it within 10, a surge was going to happen", Irving said of the Game 4 win. Not the way we wanted to finish, but we came a long ways from the beginning of the year, came together. We made progress. But not good enough. "And so, as I told our guys, we made a lot of great strides, but this pain is part of the path to what we ultimately want to be". Despite having a 5-4 record at home in the playoffs, Boston has found a way to get the job done at home when it counts.

"The start of the game was so bad, I felt like it was hard for us to come back", said Bradley (a team-high 23 points) after watching the Cavs shoot 64% in the opening quarter while building a 21-point lead. It was a continuation of the trend they started over the first two games of this series in Boston, as they jumped out to a huge lead, then coasted the rest of the way, winning 135-102.

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"I was just pretty poor", James added.

"I didn't have it", said James. "The team to get past is Cleveland, and right now we're not there". They have the No. 1 pick; we'll see what they do with that.

James had come into the contest needing 28 points to pass Jordan - victor of six titles with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s - for first on the post-season scoring list. Key players such as Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, maybe even current team MVP Thomas, could be suiting up for other teams in the near future, depending on who the Celtics can afford and what players they bring in either through the draft or free agency. Gerald Green scored 14.

For the first time in the series, the Cavs were outplayed in the first half of Game 4.

"[The Cavaliers have] been here before", Marcus Smart said. The road might intimidate a young team, but not a "been there-done that" team like the Cavaliers. It's our first time. But I can't answer that question and know if we're going to play them in the Eastern Conference finals next year. "Everybody has to use this as motivation". "It's been challenging for us to kind of- plays out of timeouts... keeping us off-balance but in the second half [of Game 4] we got a little bit of rhythm and I think it'll be a lot better in Game 5".

Even though the final was never in doubt, the crowd at the Garden starting chanting, "Let's go Celtics" in the closing minutes. It was a matchup that we were all looking forward to, and I'm glad that we prevailed. By any objective measure, it should have been a depressing, dispiriting end for the fans of the home team.

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