But as tension among Cleveland's home fans mounted at the Quicken Loans Arena, it was left to Irving to ride to the rescue with a sensational, momentum-changing display in the third quarter. He got up, walked the pain off, and drove down the lane for a layup. That induced the usual quick-trigger applause. I don't know how to phrase it, other than that. He caught a quick-hit pass for a layup on the next possession.
Odd fact: Cleveland had just seven points from its bench which isn't a great thing.
Led by its Big Three, Cleveland quickly built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, while getting lots of contributions from their teammates.
Lue paused for several seconds before responding to a question about the third and fourth fouls called on James, who was whistled for barely touching Marcus Smart on a jumper and then was called for a charge.
James, determined to bounce back after a poor 11-point haul in Game 3, then steadied the Cleveland nerves in the fourth quarter, bringing the Cavaliers home for the win as Boston's fearless effort came up short. Cleveland was trailing by 10 points at the time. "That's what I always think, when people of his stature or people like him, you've got to play confident the whole night and play aggressive".
What did he show James? It felt good. It felt good to see him smile. "You got us to this point and continue to do that, so I just tried to find ways to get into the lane, get into transition, when they backed off, shoot the jumper, and felt very comfortable". I've been saying he's a special kid and a special talent.More news: Predators wear down Gibson, Ducks
Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue refused to point the finger of blame at LeBron James on Monday, a day after a woeful performance from the National Basketball Association star gave the Boston Celtics a postseason lifeline. "But we definitely understand that this (Boston) team is not going to quit, they're going to fight, they're going to compete".
Irving re-emerged after halftime for 21 points in the third quarter. That went well with James, who finished with 24 points in the second half.
"He saw Bron went out and he wanted to put the team on his shoulders", Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "We've got to be a lot better for sure".
In the first two games this series, the Cavs reserves averaged 27.5 points. For Stevens, it was a "tip-of-the-cap" moment. The latter is exactly what this team needs in a potential Finals three-match against the Warriors and for the foreseeable future.
Cleveland's 4-1 series win gives it a 12-1 record this postseason and sets up a third consecutive matchup with Western Conference champion Golden State, the team it beat in the Finals last season to claim the franchise's first championship.
"Some adversity is all part of the postseason", he said. "I've been on both sides ... And you just kind of stay the course".
But the most telling sign of the night to me was after Bradley's bucket dropped.