They beat Washington in seven games, including a Game 2 victory in which Thomas scored 53 points – one shy of the franchise playoff record.
While trying to savor a rewarding season in which they won 53 games, earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, members of the Boston Celtics acknowledged the gap that still exists with the Cleveland Cavaliers in their quest to elevate to a true title contender.
James entered the game 27 points behind Jordan.
“He showed why he’s one of the best point guards in the league, and he commanded us to be better, especially in the second half”.
More germane to the present, the Cavs officially rebounded from their out-of-character Game 3 loss and their shaky first half in Game 4 with a game of vicious execution and momentum. Irving eventually finished with 42 points.
He’s been the model of consistency and efficiency but what’s separated James from Jordan in terms of scoring is his three-point shot. While the Cavs still have room to breathe, the Celtics will be playing desperate basketball knowing that if they don’t win, their season is over.
For someone who was electrifying to watch in Game 3, Marcus Smart was quiet in Game 4, scoring only eight points but he did add in six assists and a steal. “In Boston, “good enough” is what matters”, said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens postgame. And then we come out, we get some tremendous looks, and Kyrie goes nuts and ends us.
Michael Jordan no longer sits atop the NBA’s all-time postseason scoring list, replaced by a man who grew up in OH idolizing the Bulls star “almost like a God”. And so, I think maybe there’s just a lack of appreciation for greatness. Fittingly, he passed Michael Jordan as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on a night the Cavaliers were so dominant.
Before the game, James said, “It’s just a personal goal of mine”. “That was my mindset when I started playing the game. I think that goes with coaching staff, players, and everybody just has to get better to get back to this situation”.
“Obviously our main goal was to make it to the championship and win it, but for us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green, I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it’s a big-time accomplishment”. He had taken his post-season career points total to 5,995 by the time he took a seat for the entire fourth quarter-along with the rest of Cleveland’s starters.
“He’s been so special for us”, said Love. “To not be able to go back out there in that second half and continue that series was painful”. “They cannot. We can not go to Boston 2-2 and then it becomes almost an even series”. That would certainly push the Celtics closer to competitive territory with the Cavs and Warriors in the win shares category, but they’re still a distant third.
About an hour after the final buzzer sounded, James took a seat at the interview podium, a black cap pulled low on his brow. As Love snapped a selfie and Smith scrolled through his social media mentions, James was asked for his take on the impending battle against the Warriors. “This team (the Celtics) is like we’re preparing for a whole new team”.
Stephen Curry or LeBron James and now with both teams healthy, we will finally get our answer. Everyone wants to say, “Ah, man, this is boring” and this that and the other, but you usually don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it anymore.