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Kyrie Irving went from bad to irreplaceable to force Game 5

Elimination games bring out the best in Irving. Friday showed that.

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving put on another heroic effort in Game 4 to save the Cavaliers’ season, for at least two more nights.

Irving put up 40 points for the Cavaliers, who put up the highest scoring quarter in NBA Finals history with 49 in the first. This came against the Warriors, one of the best teams we’ve ever seen — which is also stout defensively.

Irving and LeBron James had combined for the most points scored in an NBA Finals loss just two nights earlier, pouring in 77 points. Friday night, they combined for 71, with Irving being every bit as spectacular as he was on Wednesday.

He was so flashy that he was even getting the benefit of the doubt from referees on what should have been a backcourt violation. It wasn’t just his moves as arguably the NBA’s best ball-handler. Irving shot 7-for-12 from 3-point range, the most of any player on the night. He brought the full arsenal when their backs were against the wall.

Irving scored 24 and 19 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Those aren’t terrible performances, but when you’re Kyrie Irving, that’s not enough in the Finals. He’s redeemed himself for those games by playing the same and making shots.

Throughout the greater part of three quarters and change, a lot of folks — myself included — weren’t ready to say the Warriors were out of it.

Once the Warriors really started creeping back into the game early in the fourth, nearly getting the lead below 10, Irving came down with two straight baskets to get the Quicken Loans Arena crowd back into the game, and silenced them.

This shot, which was well defended and then contested by Klay Thompson, was the type of play the Cavaliers (really just LeBron James) has needed Irving to make all series.

As the fourth quarter progressed, the Cavaliers started to expand on their lead. But it wasn’t until this Irving bucket that everybody in the building was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The shot was the final straw. Steve Kerr called timeout and pulled his starters with just over two minutes to go, down 132-111.

The series now goes back to Oakland with the Warriors up 3-1. The situation is different than it was last season. The Warriors are better rested this time around, and of course they have Kevin Durant.

Coming back from a 3-1 lead to this team would be something that seems impossible. Irving’s performance was great, and if the Cavs want to accomplish that impossible dream, he’s going to have to do it three more times.

We’ll enjoy this one though, because we don’t know how many more we’re going to get.