Kyrie Irving played hero when LeBron James needed him most

LeBron James shows his frustration on the court against the Celtics

The Cleveland Cavaliers have taken a 3-1 lead over the Boston Celtics in a game that was much closer than the final score suggested.

Irving ended the third quarter with a stepback 3-pointer to give him 39 in the game on 14-for-20 shooting (4-for-6 from three-point range).

No sooner had last week's wild draft lottery dropped off the radar of the league's devoted UFO spotters ("Lemme guess: Boston goes first, then Lakers at No. 2?) up popped Game 3 Sunday between the Celtics and Cavaliers".

The Cavaliers can clinch a third consecutive NBA Finals berth with a win in Game 5 on Thursday night in Boston.

The only bit of troubling news in the first quarter for the Celtics were the two fouls apiece called on Jae Crowder and Al Horford. The third game of the Eastern Conference Finals series required a strong effort from Isaiah Thomas' supporting cast, as the All-Star guard is out for the rest of the postseason with a hip injury. James, with four first-half fouls for the first time in his career, sat for the remainder of the half.

The Cavs shot 59.5 percent for the game, tying their franchise record for best postseason shooting performance.

If that's the case, the Celtics will need to perform just as well as they did in Game 3, if not better, for Tuesday's contest.

While the offensive execution left a lot to be desired, it was the defense that truly put them in their first quarter hole. "That's what I always think, [with] people of his stature or people like him, you've got to play confident the whole night and play aggressive". James and Irving both had six points, too. Who's next? Is there anything left in Brad Stevens' bag of tricks?

Under most normal circumstances, Marcus Smart is a rogue element.

Boston was led by Bradley, who scored 19 points but went just 1-of-7 from 3-point range.

With the crowd on its feet and sensing a huge run, Irving drove to the basket for another layup that made it 77-72. He stayed down and grabbed his lower leg in pain. The Cavs outscored the Celtics, 40-23, in the third.

In the end, Boston just didn't have enough heroics - or bank-shot threes - to get it done. Another James jumper extended the lead to 110-97.



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