Irving's 42 carry Cavs to win, 3-1 lead over Celtics

LeBron James snaps at radio reporter after loss'You always come around when we lose

That was reality for the Cavaliers on Tuesday night, as Irving set a playoff-career high with 42 points in Cleveland's 112-99 win over the Boston Celtics. It was no exaggeration to say the next 24 minutes could define the Eastern Conference finals and, by extension, the Cavaliers' chances of repeating as National Basketball Association champions.

But this Cleveland team is a different kind of challenge, one that the Boston Celtics simply aren't built to beat right now.

Still, the Cavs were in control leading 77-56 in the third quarter after making 14 3-pointers in the first half.

Irving's 20-point third quarter put the Cavs in front, with James then stepping back into the game to close out a relatively comfortable victory. And his Finals-clinching three against the Warriors last June was one of the most clutch shots in National Basketball Association history.

Boston now trails Cleveland 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 in Cleveland on Tuesday and Game 5 back in Boston on Thursday. James had, by far, his worst performance of the postseason. "Defensively, we've got to be better". In his first 10 playoff games -all wins - he was averaging 34.3 points and shooting 57 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and averaging only 3.8 turnovers per game. But there's still some debate over Irving and his value to the Cavs, particularly about how effective he can be without LeBron on the court and his (lack of) defensive impact. Cleveland limited the Celtics to 41 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. It seems like you only ask questions when we lose. Offensively, I thought we moved and cut and played together, and then for whatever reason, all those things became a little bit more hard.

"I mean, a game like that just happens", Lue said.

Everyone will have one eye on Irving's left ankle.

Asked about suffering his injury, Irving said, "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 for any margin".

"I'm saying to myself, 'They can not tie up this series". Crowder started the game 4 of 5 but finished 6 of 12.

It's an indication that despite still being in a dire 3-1 hole, the resolve inside Boston's locker room remains strong. Irving was playing at his very best in the third, gracefully dancing into the paint before artfully spinning the ball off the glass on balletic lay-ins, earning trips to the foul line, and knocking home back-breaking threes. "The closeout game is always the hardest", James replied. On this night, the Cavs overcame a double-digit deficit to win much like the Celtics rallied from a sizeable deficit to win Game 3 on Sunday.

"You can't (think about it)". As much as you want to, it's not over. Smith wrote. ... Deron Williams played 18 minutes after sustaining a shoulder "stinger" in Game 3. "Because they got a tough group over there".

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