CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Not even a rolled ankle could keep Kyrie Irving from carving up the Boston Celtics Wednesday night.
In the midst of his third quarter scoring spree, a raucous Quicken Loans Arena let out a collective gasp as Irving laid on the baseline in agonizing pain after landing on Terry Rozier’s foot and rolling his left ankle.
After a few minutes he hopped up, retied his shoe and walked it off.
“My adrenaline is still going at this point, so I’m pretty sure when I get home my body will probably hate me, but it’s the magnitude of the moment and what’s at stake, and I wasn’t coming out,” Irving said. “I wasn’t coming out. I knew how much we needed this game and how much my teammates needed me and the importance of me leading these guys as well as Bron.”
Irving was needed more than ever Wednesday night because LeBron James, who was coming off of an 11-point and 4 of 13 shooting Game 3 performance, had to sit for the final 6:46 of the second quarter after being hit with his fourth foul, and the Cavs were down by double figures.
Boston quickly extended their lead to 16 thanks to a 6-0 burst after James took a seat before Irving started to heat up.
First came a step back 3, then a driving layup and a minute later another 3 to get the deficit back to 10.
He scored 10 of his 12 second-quarter points in the final 5:11 of the half, but he was just getting started.
“He saw Bron went out, and he wanted to put the team on his shoulders, on his back, and just let us ride him until LeBron got back,” head coach Tyronn Lue said.
Then game Irving’s third quarter blitzkrieg that saw him slice through Celtic defenders like a hot knife through butter.
He scored 19 points over the final 4:48 of the quarter that included 4 driving layups, a runner, an alley-oop, a pair of 3s and a free throw.
There was no way Irving would allow the Cavs to be denied 2 times in 3 nights on their home floor.
“In the back of my mind, I thought, ‘They can’t tie up the series,'” Irving said. “We can’t go back to Boston tied 2-2. We needed everything tonight.”
When the dust settled after Irving buried a 26-foot 3 with :00.5 on the clock at the end of the third he had 39 points, the Cavs led by 7 heading to the final quarter and the Celtics had no idea what hit them.
“He’s a special talent,” James said. “As the stakes get higher and higher, his game gets higher and higher, but it was nothing surprising for me. But he rose to the occasion, and he put the team on his back, and we definitely needed that effort from him.”
Irving made 10 of 12 shots in the second half and finished with a career playoff high 42 points.
The Cavs shot a blistering .711, a franchise record, from the floor in the second half.
James, who had 34 points, finished the Celtics off by scoring 15 in the final 12 minutes but it was Irving, who hit the biggest 3-pointer in franchise history last June, that pushed the Cavs within a win of a third straight conference title and trip to the NBA Finals.
“The kid is special,” James said. “I was happy to sit back and watch him. He was born for these moments.”