NBA: Irving, James lead the way as Cavs down Celtics

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Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives to the basket between Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) and center Kelly Olynyk (41) during the second half in game four of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined for 76 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers battled to a 112-99 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday to move within one game of a place in the NBA Finals.

The win gives Cleveland a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and leaves them firmly on track for a third consecutive NBA Finals showdown against the Golden State Warriors.

Cleveland, stunned by Boston in Game 3 after romping two blowout wins in the opening two games of the Eastern Conference series, looked to be heading for another shock as the Celtics dominated the first half.

Boston powered into a 29-19 first quarter lead and maintained their 10-point cushion through to half-time, leading 57-47 at the break.

But as tension among Cleveland’s home fans mounted at the Quicken Loans Arena, it was left to Irving to ride to the rescue with a sensational, momentum-changing display in the third quarter.

Irving piled on 21 points in the third period as Cleveland turned their 10-point half-time deficit into an 87-80 lead at the end of the third quarter. Irving eventually finished with 42 points.

James, determined to bounce back after a poor 11-point haul in Game 3, then steadied the Cleveland nerves in the fourth quarter, bringing the Cavaliers home for the win as Boston’s brave effort came up short.

James, who finished with 34 points, were joined in double figures by Kevin Love, who scored 17 points with 17 rebounds and five assists.

James, Irving and Love were the only three Cavs players to make double digits.

Boston, missing the injured Isaiah Thomas, had four players in double figures, with Avery Bradley scoring a leading 19 points.

Game 4 takes place in Boston on Thursday.

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