Published: Wed, May 24, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Cavs coach defends LeBron after 'weird' loss

Cavs coach defends LeBron after 'weird' loss

The Cleveland Cavaliers are now just one win shy of their third straight NBA Finals appearance after a hard-fought 112-99 win over the Boston Celtics in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Boston made 18-of-40 triples (11-of-22 in the second half) to climb back into the contest and attacked Cleveland in the final two quarters in a way the Cavs did not seem prepared for.

Boston might have gotten the drop on Cleveland last time out because the Celtics had nothing to lose.

Irving re-emerged after halftime for 21 points in the third quarter.

In a game that featured LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, Smart was the best player on the floor. The Celtics also got some help from LeBron James, who picked up a shocking fourth foul with 6:46 remaining in the first half, sending him to the bench. In Game 3 of the East finals, Marcus Smart, a career 29.1% three-point shooter, hit a Ray Allen-esque seven threes in a game the Celtics won by one possession, a flukey performance that still uncaged some silly takes and overexplanations.

Don't be fooled. Las Vegas bookmakers looked at that monumental upset, shrugged, re-evaluated and then promptly knocked the Cavs down to a 15-point favorite ahead of Thursday night's Game 4. James had just 3 points in the second half and 11 points total in Boston's win Sunday night. If he and the Cavs' other stars combine for a similar performance in Game 5, this series will be over. "We knew it wouldn't be easy, but we got some things we can correct and come back ready to go on Tuesday (in Game 4)".

Game 4 is Tuesday in Cleveland and can be seen live on TSN3, TSN4 and TSN5 at 8pm et/5pm pt. "I'm focused on game four. Great job", said Popovich, who also saluted Ginobili in what might have been his final game.

LINE HISTORY: Despite the shocking Game 3 loss, oddsmakers aren't deterred, opening the Cavaliers as 15-point home favorites for Game 4. I told him I loved him and he said, 'But you know once this starts, we're going to try to kick your (butt).

James Jones, James' longtime teammate in both Miami and Cleveland said the timing of the finalists being released was a rather transparent attempt by the league to drum-up interest in its first televised awards show.

The victor of that decisive game would have the daunting task of flying cross country to Oakland and then having just one day off before going up against the well-rested Warriors. The Celtics appeared ready to go down meekly after losing star point guard Isaiah Thomas but instead posted a final-second 111-108 victory on Sunday to trim their deficit to 2-1.

If they don't, the Celtics might have the chance to steal another game and make it a series.

"In the back of my mind, I thought, 'They can't tie up the series,"' he said.

Remember in 2001 when the Sixers beat Milwaukee in a Game 7 for the Eastern Conference title and then had to travel immediately to Los Angeles to play a Lakers team that, like Golden State, went 12-0 in the Western playoffs? The Cavs took their offensive pace to a whole other level as they combined their frenzied pace with great shooting and ran the Celtics right out of the gym.

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