James shows love as Cavs level

Cleveland's LeBron James driving to the basket in the third quarter of Monday's Game Four against Boston's Jaylen Brown.
Cleveland's LeBron James driving to the basket in the third quarter of Monday's Game Four against Boston's Jaylen Brown.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LeBron stars again with 44 points but lauds Korver's defensive play and dogged attitude

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • After a record-breaking night, LeBron James opted to shine a light on Cleveland Cavaliers team-mate Kyle Korver.

Late in the third quarter of the Cavaliers' 111-102 win over over Boston on Monday, Korver dived face-first for a loose ball to help Cleveland retain possession.

And the 37-year-old guard, who Cavs coach Tyronn Lue mistook to be 36, finished with 14 points and three blocks as the Cavaliers tied their National Basketball Association (NBA) Eastern Conference final series at 2-2.

"I love Kyle ever since we made the trade to get him here (last year)," James said after scoring 44 points. "He's doing whatever it takes to help us win with the blocks, the strips and obviously his shot-making is very key for our team as well but it's just the intangibles that he's doing for us defensively that has put him in another position to be on the floor."

James played his part too. He made 17-of-28 shots from the floor, 1-of-4 from three-point range, and 9-of-13 free throws while contributing five rebounds, three assists and two steals to spark a crucial home triumph.

In unleashing his sixth 40-point performance of this year's play-offs, the most such efforts in any year since Allen Iverson's six in 2001, James rose to second on the all-time 40 or more play-off game list, passing NBA legend Jerry West with his 21st such total.

And with his sixth basket of the night, he passed the old mark for career play-off field goals of 2,356 by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

  • WHERE LEBRON JAMES RANKS

  • 40+ POINTS PLAY-OFF GAMES

    2nd LeBron James has managed 40 points or more 21 times in the post-season. Michael Jordan holds the record with 38 such games.

    PLAY-OFF FIELD GOALS MADE

    1st James' 2,368 field goals puts him above LA Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2,356).

    PLAY-OFF POINTS

    1st James has 6,668 points over 232 post-season games. Jordan is the closest challenger (5,987 points in 197 games).

"Any time I'm in the same breath with the greats, it's just humbling," James said. "I think it's pretty cool."

But he does not expect any adulation from the Celtics fans when the best-of-seven showdown moves to Boston today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time).

"It's a hostile environment, we understand that," James said of the TD Garden. "There is no love in there. If you don't have on green, if you don't play for that team, if you don't bleed green, they've got no love for you. So we've got to come out with a bunker mentality and understand it's just us."

Cleveland are the 300th NBA team to fall 0-2 in a series and are seeking to become the 20th team to overcome that deficit. James has already featured in two such comebacks but knows the Cavaliers will have to get a win in Boston, where the Celtics are 9-0 this post-season, to accomplish that feat.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is comfortable with his team's position despite falling to 1-6 on the road in this season's play-offs.

He said: "Ultimately, anybody that didn't think this was going to be tough, I mean, everything is tough. In this deal, it's a blast to have to grit your teeth, get up off the mat and go after it again."

Jaylen Brown led Boston with 25 on Monday. The Celtics outscored the Cavs in each of the final three quarters at the Quicken Loans Arena but never managed to overcome Cleveland's ferocious start.

James had five points in a 10-0 run that gave the Cavs a 19-10 edge on the way to a 34-18 lead after the first quarter.

Celtics forward Al Horford said after scoring 15 points: "We have to execute better."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'James shows love as Cavs level'. Print Edition | Subscribe