LeBron, Cavs capture 3-1 advantage
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. ” The Cleveland Cavaliers regained control of the Eastern Conference semifinals by making New Jersey’s Big Three look awfully small.
LeBron James had 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and the Cavaliers moved one victory from their first conference finals appearance in 15 years by beating the Nets 87-85 in Game 4 on Monday night.
Larry Hughes added 19 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who put themselves in position to wrap up the best-of-seven series at home Wednesday night.
Cleveland made the last of its two conference finals appearances in 1992. The Cavs fell one win short last year, dropping the final two games to Detroit in the Eastern semifinals.
Cleveland will be safe this time unless the Nets become the ninth NBA team to erase a 3-1 deficit. And that won’t happen unless Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson shoot better than they did Monday.
Carter had 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, but shot 6-for-23 from the field. Kidd wasted his career playoff-high 17-rebound performance by shooting 2-for-13 and scoring five points, while Jefferson had 15 points but was only 3-of-12 from the field.
New Jersey had only three field goals in the fourth quarter and couldn’t even get off a shot that would have tied it. With Eric Snow defending him, Carter lost the ball out of bounds with 1.9 seconds left and the Nets trailing by two.
Mikki Moore kept New Jersey in it with a career playoff-best 25 points. He had two of the Nets’ three baskets in the fourth quarter, when the Big Three were a combined 1-for-13.
But Moore battled foul trouble, even picking up a flagrant for sending Sasha Pavlovic to the floor in the third quarter, and he was on the bench for much of the final period, when the Nets couldn’t manage another field goal after his three-point play gave them a 76-75 lead with 6:58 to play.
Meanwhile, James bounced back after he was held to 18 points, his lowest in a playoff game, in New Jersey’s Game 3 victory. He took only 16 shots, and even the Nets were wondering if he would come out looking for his own offense this time.
“With LeBron, any time a special player feels like he had a night, that he thought he could have done better, you can anticipate him trying to put his head down and getting to the paint,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said before the game. “At the same time, why he is so special is that he trusts his teammates.
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