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They went on to win 19 straight, improved their record by 22 wins over last season and beat Brooklyn and Washington in the first two rounds.But an injury to starting forward Thabo Sefolosha in April was followed by De Marre Carroll injuring his knee in the series opener, before Kyle Korver's season ended in Game 2 with an ankle injury.
James has never been on a team that's had to surmount as much.Other players have won more championships, but none has ever done it for his ring-starved home region.When he announced his return last summer, James talked about ending a championship dryspell that has linked generations.One play here, one there and Atlanta wouldn't be in a 3-0 hole that no team in league history has been able to climb from. We feel like we can do something special, whether this year, next year, whatever. It's not over `til it's over."For James, the only ending he can envision is winning his third title and ending Cleveland's 51-year championship drought."It's been my goal since I got back here, not only to get back, but to win, win the whole thing," he said. Cavs coach David Blatt said Irving remains a game-time decision for Tuesday and the team's lead in the series has no bearing on whether he'll play."We need Kyrie on the court, and we're not really thinking about resting him as much as we're thinking about him being healthy to play basketball," Blatt said.Despite overwhelming odds, the Hawks won't quit."No matter what happens, we're still going to be confident," forward Paul Millsap said. "We need him on the court, whether we're up 1-0 or 2-1 or 3-0."SILENT TREATMENTAfter making strong inferences they felt Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova plays dirty, the Hawks were quiet about the subject.James wore a sleeve on his right calf, which cramped so severely he asked to be taken out Sunday night before re-considering. "That's just what it's about."With a win on Tuesday night, the Cavs can clinch the Eastern Conference title and get some rest before a Finals matchup presumably against Golden State, which leads Houston 3-0 heading into Monday's Game 4.
Instead, he pushed through the pain and delivered 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists - all after an 0-for-10 shooting start - to help the Cavs take a 3-0 series lead. James has been down this path before, but never one so bumpy.
Before the season began, James predicted this - molding a new team into a title contender - would be the greatest challenge of his career."I felt it would be, and it is," he said.
The Cavs need one more win over the rising Hawks, who showed resiliency in Game 3 by overcoming a 10-point deficit in the fourth when they appeared done. That's what it's about."There are some other subplots heading into Game 4: IRVING UPDATEWhile his teammates got treatment and relaxed after a draining game, Irving went through another vigorous workout as Cleveland's coaching staff and medical team kept a close eye on him.
With Love out, he's playing more and the four-year veteran, who will be a free agent this summer, has been almost unstoppable on the boards."Tristan should probably be a Cavalier for his whole career," James said. It's almost like what more can you ask out of a guy even though we ask for more out of him? Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited CLEVELAND (AP) Le Bron James knew what he left behind when he bolted to Miami five years ago.
He broke hearts at home, where generations of Cleveland fans only know championships through stories told by their fathers, yellowed newspaper clippings or grainy black-and-white film.
To be at this point tonight, it's very emotional."Jeff Teague scored 17 and Paul Millsap 16 for Atlanta, which won a team-record 60 games during the regular season and made the conference finals for the first time since 1970. Smith added 18 points and Tristan Thompson had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavs, who were handed new caps and T-shirts following the win and were joined by family members on the floor to celebrate.