By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — At least the Celtics put up a much better fight in Monday night’s Game 4 in Cleveland. But Boston’s postseason road woes continued and they now find themselves even with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Cavaliers built an early lead and never let it go en route to a 111-102 win. While the Celtics clawed their way back on a handful of occasions in the second half, getting to within seven points in the fourth quarter, they could never get closer and now head back to Boston with the series tied 2-2.
The Celtics are now 1-6 on the road this postseason.
LeBron James took advantage of every opportunity to get Terry Rozier in a switch and that led to bad things for Boston, as James finished with 44 points, five rebounds and three assists. It was his sixth 40+ point game of this postseason.
“He’s the best in the game at evaluating the court and figuring out what he wants and where he wants it. You just have to battle and make it as hard as possible, because hes going to find a matchup he ultimately wants,” C’s head coach Brad Stevens said after the loss. “You can’t let the other guys go off, which we did again, and you have to make him battle.”
The Cavaliers also got 13 points each from George Hill and Tristan Thompson and 14 points off the bench from Kyle Korver.
Jaylen Brown shook off some early struggles and finished with a team-high 25 points for Boston, 17 of which came in the second half. Rozier chipped in with 16 points and 11 assists, while Jayson Tatum had 17 for the Celtics.
Boston trailed by 13 heading into the fourth quarter but chipped away. They got to within seven thanks to an 8-0 run, with five of those points coming from Jaylen Brown, to cut Cleveland’s lead to 96-89 with just under seven minutes to go. But Kevin Love tipped in a J.R. Smith missed three after a pair of offensive rebounds and James finished with an easy driving layup following a Brown missed three, pushing Cleveland’s lead back up to 11 with six minutes to play. Any time they made things a little interesting, the Cavaliers would score quick baskets to regain their lead.
James turned the ball over under the Cleveland basket a few minutes later, but made amends by swiping an errant Marcus Morris pass and putting it for an easy two, putting the Cavs up 104-93 with 3:31 to play. He hit a dagger three with 1:36 to go to put the Cavaliers ahead 109-95.
While they battled back this time around (unlike Saturday night’s blowout loss), the C’s simply dug themselves into too deep of a hole early in the game. They trailed by as many as 19 in the second quarter before cutting it to nine on a corner three by Brown with just over three minutes in the frame, but some careless play let the Cavaliers build the lead back to 15. They went into the locker room with a 68-53 advantage, with those 68 points tied for the most Boston has given up a half all season — regular or postseason.
Brown found himself in an early funk and had a pair of short jumpers rejected by Korver in the first quarter. Those were two of the 13 shots that Boston missed in the paint in the first half. It was a night of missed opportunities for the Celtics, as they missed three missed three dunks in the first quarter.
The road has not been kind to the Celtics, as they were outscored in the opening frame for the sixth time on the road this postseason. Boston shot just 7-for-26 in the first quarter and the Cavaliers had a 34-18 lead after the opening 12 minutes thanks to 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting by James. LeBron even caught a touchdown pass from Kevin Love over a pair of Boston defenders that got the Cleveland crowd going:
The series is now a best-of-three as it heads back to Boston, where the Celtics are undefeated this postseason.