He shot 15 of 27 from the field Tuesday and closed the game with 15 points in the fourth, including a 3-pointer with 3:52 remaining for a 106-97 lead.
"He's probably one of or the best one-on-one player in the league", Tyronn Lue said. Most important, Marcus Smart, a third-year point guard filling in for Thomas, did a passable imitation of James himself, scoring 28 on 7-of-10 shooting from 3-point range - after averaging less than 30 percent from that distance all season.
At that point, Uncle Drew took over the ballgame - scoring 19 of the Cavaliers' final 21 points in the period and putting Cleveland squarely in control of the contest.
After allowing the Celtics to seize the early momentum in Game 4, the Cavs barely gave them the chance in Game 5.
But the Cavs found their footing late in the half and were able to stay within striking distance - trailing by only 10 at intermission. Those guys deserve a ton of credit...
James is one of, if not the most, cerebral basketball players on the planet, so for him to tip his cap to another team's coach for their adjustments is high praise.
"The importance of a Game 4, especially the way we came out in Game 3, you know, in the back of my mind, I was like, I'm saying to myself, 'We can not - they can not tie up this series, ' " Irving said. "I think I've made more than I've missed". "So my rhythm is broken, and you have to figure out what you can do to still help the team, and my teammates said, 'Be aggressive". You've heard by now that he scored 33 points after James headed to the bench with his fourth foul as the second-quarter clock read 6:43, and it speaks volumes of his effort that his nine third-quarter field goals set a Cleveland playoff record. He even shook off what appeared to be a nasty injury.
Kyrie nearly outscored the Celtics on his own in the third quarter (23-21), and his historic third quarter onslaught helped give the Cavs a seven point cushion entering the fourth quarter after having trailed the Celtics by ten at halftime. And while his disgusting 11-point effort in Game 3 helped the Cavs lose, and in doing so lifted the spirits of the Celtics, nobody - nobody - thought it was going to last.
After the Cavs took a 5-0 lead to start the game, the Celtics hit the gas and went on an 11-0 run.
"We're in a good place", Horford said following the game, via CBS Boston. "We needed everything tonight". "It was huge for our team".
Fittingly, the team that ranked 29th in post-All-Star break defensive efficiency didn't take over the game with its defense.
For all of their scrappy play and over-achievement, the Boston Celtics still face a very tall task Thursday night at TD Garden.
The Cavaliers basically conceded the East's top seed to the Celtics at the end of the regular season by opting to rest its starters in advance of the playoffs. He did not play the fourth quarter. Turns out Irving was just getting warmed up en route to scorching.
Roughly 180 - The decibel level when Irving sprung back up and sprinted down the court, comparable to the noise emitted from a rocket launch. The Celtics watched the Cavaliers cut the deficit down to single digits.