CLEVELAND--It was crunch time.
The Cavs found themselves down by 16 points in the second quarter and down by 12 early in the third quarter.
Then Kyrie Irving took over.
Irving scored 21 points in the third quarter alone as the Cavs outscored Boston 40-23 and went on to a 112-99 win in front of 20,562 fans at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs lead the Celtics 3-1 in the best-of-seven game series and can clinch the series on Thursday night in Boston.
"It's my job to stay aggressive and be prepared," Irving said. "I have great teammates and I couldn't attack the rim if I didn't have those guys."
LeBron James picked up his fourth foul midway through the second quarter and Irving scored 33 points in the 19 minutes James was out.
"(Irving) put us on his back and carried us," James said. "We need that. He showed why he's one of the best point guards in the NBA."
Irving said despite his offense, the defense got the Cavs going.
"We played defense and stayed within striking distance," Irving said. "We just had the mindset that we cannot let them tie this series up at 2-2.
"We kept telling ourselves that we've been through this before."
"When we defend, we have a chance to win."
As a team, the Cavs shot 71 percent in the second half after trailing, 57-47 at the half.
Besides Irving's scoring, the defense started to limit the Celtics. Boston scored just 42 points in the second half.
"We decided to get physical and start fighting," Tyronn Lue said. "We really came out in the third quarter with a defensive mindset. That was big for us."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked what happened.
"Kyrie Irving and then LeBron James (in the fourth)," Stevens said. "Irving at the end of the second and end of the third (quarter) was unbelievable.
"It was more of a 'tip your hat' to those guys."
The 'Big 3' combined for 93 points, including 42 by Irving to lead the way. James bounced back with 34 points and Kevin Love had 17 points and 17 rebounds. The trio were the only Cavaliers to score in double figures.
Love hit a three and two free throws for a quick 5-0 start to the game, but Boston went on an 11-0 run and led by 10 after the first quarter, 29-19.
James picked up his fourth foul with 6:46 left in the first half on an offensive foul charge and the Cavs trailed 46-33 with 5:45 left in the first half. It was the first time in his career that James had four fouls in the first half.
"Kyrie and Kevin kept us afloat," Lue said. "I was happy to only be down 10 at halftime at home with LeBron being out."
James scored 24 points in the second half with the four fouls and scored seven-straight points in the final minutes to help close out the win.
Boston increased their lead to 16 points in the first half, 49-33 with 5:30 to play before the Cavs cut the Celtics lead to ten at the half, 57-47.
However, Irving took over in the third quarter and James and Irving closed out the game late.
Avery Bradley led the Celtics with 19 points and Jae Crowder had 18.
Kyrie's Big Game: Irving had a playoff high of 42 points on 15-of-22, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. He was also 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Irving went down late in the third quarter with an apparent injury to his ankle, but he was able to get back up and keep it going.
"He's growing as a player," Lue said. "He has been taking what the defense has given him."
Irving said that he twisted his ankle, but said he wasn't going to come out of the game.
The King: After scoring a playoff low of 11 points, LeBron James bounced back with 34 points. James started the night trailing Michael Jordan (5,987) by 62 points (5,926) as the all-time leading scorer in NBA postseason history. James started the night five three-pointers away from passing Manu Ginobili (318 3FGM) for third place on the NBA's all-time playoff three-pointers made list. James scored 24 points in the second half playing with four fouls and finished with 34 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
By virtue of scoring 34 points, James needs 28 points to pass Jordan and he will have a chance to do so on Thursday night in Game 5 in Boston.
TT: Tristan Thompson (513) started the game needing 11 rebounds to pass Zydrunas Ilgauskas (523) for second in team postseason history. He had seven rebounds and 7 points.
3 Woes Continue: The Cavs continued to shoot the three poor in the first half, After Kevin Love hit the first shot, they missed their next four attempts in the first quarter. They were 5-of-12 (41.7 pct.) in the first half and finished 10-of-22 (45.5 pct.)
Beasts of the East: Since 2015, Cavs are 35-5 record in the playoffs against the Eastern Conference. They are 18-2 at home vs. Easter and 7-1 in the playoffs against the Celtics during that time.
Korver Shut Out: Three-point specialist Kyle Korver did not take a shot in 20:12. He had three rebounds and four assists.
Helping Out: The Cavs had 23 assists and 14 turnovers. James had 6 assists, while Love had 5.
In the House: UFC Champion Stipe Miocic was at the game and performed with halftime entertainment Machine Gun Kelley. Actor Matthew McCanaughy was also in attendance.
Next Up: The Cavs will travel back to Boston to play the Celtics in Game 5 Thursday night at TD Garden at 8:30 pm. A win in Boston would send the Cavs back to the NBA Finals for the third straight year. They have clinched their last six playoff series on the road.