Don’t look now, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are just one win away from advancing to their first NBA Finals series in eight years.
LeBron James continued to dominate in the postseason, notching a triple-double with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists to lead the Cavaliers to a 114-111 overtime win against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 4 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals on May 24, per Joe Gabriele of the Cavaliers’ official website.
James punctuated his sterling performance by scoring the Cavs’ last five points in the overtime period, per Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 25, 2015
With this, James continues to state his case as the best player not just in the NBA, but the entire world.
Unless, of course, 2014-15 NBA MVP Stephen Curry has something to say about that.
Nonetheless, James almost single-handedly willed Cleveland to victory and put the suddenly outmatched Hawks on the bubble on Sunday.
According to Gabriele, Irving sat out his second straight game with left-knee tendinitis.
For his part, Love underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on April 29 after he was injured during a collision with Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk three days earlier. He is expected to be out of commission for the next four to six months, per ESPN.
No Kevin Love. No Kyrie Irving. No problem for LeBron James.
Recapping The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 114-111 Game 3 OT Win Over The Atlanta Hawks
Entering the game, both the Cavaliers and Hawks will be without their key players.
As previously mentioned, both Love and Irving will be out for Cleveland.
On the other hand, Atlanta will miss the services of sharpshooter Kyle Korver, who sustained an ankle injury while battling the Cavaliers’ Matthew Dellavedova for a loose ball in Game 2, per Gabriele.
As great as LeBron James played, he didn’t get off to a very good start.
James shot a very un-LBJ-like 0-for-9 during the first quarter. He went on to miss his first 10 shots of the game. Haynes dubs James’ first quarter as “the poorest” of his career. Most of those misses were from point-blank range. When he missed a layup, “he raised his hands out of frustration,” per The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Meanwhile, the Hawks got off to a decent start. Atlanta center Al Horford scored eight points in the first quarter to help his team get off to an early 24-21 lead. James, the four-time NBA MVP, didn’t get his first field goal until the 7:04 mark of the second quarter, per Haynes.
With 34 seconds left in the first half and the Hawks clinging to a precarious one-point lead at 49-48, things got a little bit chippy.
Once again, Dellavedova was involved.
He and Horford were going after a loose ball when the Cavaliers guard rolled up on the Atlanta center’s’s right leg, prompting Horford to drop his elbow near Dellavedova’s face.
The officials slapped Horford, who had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, with a Flagrant 2 which results to an automatic ejection. They gave Dellavedova a technical foul, per The Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Haynes suspects it “might have been a retaliatory act” for what he did to Korver in Game 2.
After cooler heads prevailed, James began to sizzle.
He pumped in 15 points, six rebounds and six assists in the third quarter. His vicious one-handed slam over Kent Bazemore and Mike Muscala made an emphatic statement, per Haynes.
The Cavs had an 81-76 entering the fourth quarter. They even led by as many as 10 points in the game’s final 12 minutes but the Hawks would not go away. All-Star guard Jeff Teague scored 10 of his 30 points in the fourth period to keep his team in it.
Atlanta seemed to be on its way to notching its first win of the series when it built a four-point lead at 104-100 on a Teague floater with 1:34 left to play.
However, a James free throw, a Tristan Thompson layup and an Iman Shumpert free throw would tie the count at 104 apiece at the end of regulation, per ESPN.
With the Cavaliers leading by one at 109-108, Teague drained a triple to put the Hawks up by two. James came right back with a three of his own from the left corner with just 36.4 seconds left in overtime to give his team the lead for good, per the Cavaliers’ official website.
On the ensuing possession, Teague missed a layup while James made a short jumper on the other end to finish off the scoring, per ESPN.
Atlanta reserve guard Shelvin Mack missed two three-point attempts in the waning seconds, per Haynes.
Dellavedova and J.R. Smith each had 17 points for Cleveland. All-Star forward Paul Millsap added 22 points and nine rebounds in a losing effort.
The Final Say
Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks had their share of adversary in Game 3.
However, it was the Hawks whose backs were against the wall. Lose another one to the Cavs, and they can virtually kiss their first NBA Finals appearance since moving to Atlanta goodbye.
The Cavaliers put the Hawks away, 94-82, thanks in large part to Smith’s franchise playoff record eight three-pointers in Game 2 on May 22.
For all intents and purposes, Game 3 was all LeBron James.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 25, 2015
Even without his Love and Irving, James found a way to win. His head coach, David Blatt, told AFP on May 24 he was battling cramps throughout the game.
James told AFP he would not allow his ailments to get the better of him at such a crucial time:
No matter how I am feeling I have got to try and make some plays. I felt like I couldn’t give more, but then it was mind over matter. I was able to push through.
You name them. We could play doctor now with how many injuries I got.
We are a desperate team. We are a banged-up team and if we come out and play as hard as we can, we defend on a high level and we share ball offensively then we will give ourselves a chance to win.
James’ feat wasn’t on the level of a Willis Reed, but it was close. He proved to everybody adversity can be overcome if you put your mind to it.
Speaking of which, this is exactly what the Hawks need to do in Game 4 if they are to salvage their season.
Easier said than done with LeBron James to deal with. Expect another epic slugfest in Game 4.