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Kyrie Irving played hero when LeBron James needed him most

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Irving scored a career playoff-high 42 points to silence the Celtics in Game 4.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If anything became clear after the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers dropped Game 3 against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, it was LeBron James needs help if Cleveland is going to repeat as champions.

After all, James scored just 11 points during the Cavs’ loss in Game 3, and although Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving combined for 57 points, it was apparent Cleveland needed more if it was going to compete at the next level.

Irving received The King’s message loud and clear.

The All-Star guard responded with an incredible Game 4, pouring on a playoff career-high 42 points on a methodical 15-of-22 shooting to lead Cleveland to a 112-99 win on Tuesday. He did it while James sat half of the second quarter after picking up four fouls in the first half. He continued in the third quarter, playing all 12 minutes to score 21 points on 90 percent shooting in the period.

The Cavaliers outscored the Celtics by 17 with Irving on the floor during his magical third quarter. It was a microcosm of all that could go well when a fully healthy Cleveland team fires on all cylinders.

Those thoughts of Irving’s dominance were nearly dashed in the third quarter when he went down with an apparent ankle injury.

After writhing in pain, the All-Star guard tightened his shoelaces, gritted his teeth, and turned in one of the most dominant quarters this postseason has seen.

James finished Game 4 with 34 points on 55 percent shooting, while Love added 17 points, 17 rebounds, and a handful of outlet passes. But without Irving’s Herculean performance, Cleveland very well could have seen its 2-0 series lead evaporate.

Instead, the Cavaliers are now 3-1 with the opportunity to close the Celtics out in Boston on Thursday. In all likelihood, they’ll advance to the NBA Finals and dance with the Golden State Warriors in the first-ever Finals three-match.

Irving saved the day when the Cavaliers needed it. It’s not the first time he’s answered the bell in his career, and if Cleveland wants to win a championship, it need not be his last.