Wrap-Up — From the moment the regular season tipped off in late October, it seemed like the Cavaliers and Warriors were on collision course for Round 3. And after taking care of the Celtics in five games – including Thursday’s blowout in Boston – both squads are once again ready to rumble.
The Wine and Gold advanced the NBA Finals for the third straight season – where they’ll square off again with Golden State – making quick work of the shorthanded Celtics in Game 5, pulling away early for the 135-102 decision.
With the win, the Cavaliers closed the Eastern Conference portion of their bracket with a 12-1 mark, going undefeated in seven tries on the road. They’ll be going up against a Warriors team that comes into the Finals unblemished.
After hitting a speedbump against the Celtics on Sunday night – dropping their only contest of the postseason – the Cavaliers were razor sharp over the last two games of the series – shooting just under 60 percent in Game 4 and 57 percent in Thursday’s drubbing at the TD Garden.
Leaving nothing to doubt, Cleveland jumped on Boston early – taking a double-digit lead less than five minutes into the affair and not looking back the rest of the way. The Celtics never led on Thursday night; the Cavaliers led by as many as 39 in the fourth quarter.
LeBron James continued his historic postseason run in Game 5 – leading everyone with 35 points en route to passing Michael Jordan as the leading scorer in NBA Playoff history.
On the night, the four-time MVP finished 13-of-18 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from long-range, adding eight boards, eight assists, three steals and a blocked shot in just three quarters of work.
”I think the biggest thing for me sitting here today after breaking the all-time scoring record in Playoff history is that I did it just being me,” explained James. “I don’t have to score the ball to make an impact in the basketball game. That was my mindset when I started playing the game. I was like, ‘If I’m not scoring the ball, how can I still make an impact on the game?’ It’s carried me all the way to this point now, and it’s going to carry me for the rest of my career.”
Kyrie Irving followed up his massive 42-point performance in Game 4 with a 24-point performance in the series clincher – going 9-for-15 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from long-distance, to go with seven helpers and a pair of steals.
”This is one that I can really put in the memory bank and be proud of up until this point, because I finally got to play the majority of the games in the regular season and be challenged every single night,” said Irving. “And then the final three weeks of the season as well as Round One was some of the toughest basketball that I had to play. It’s definitely one for the books for me up to this point.”
Kevin Love doubled-up in each game of the Eastern Conference Finals – tallying 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting, leading both squads with 11 boards and four steals in the win.
On Thursday night, Deron Williams was just the second Cavaliers reserve in the series to tally double-figures, leading the second unit with 14 points – all in the second quarter – going 5-of-6 from the floor, 2-of-3 from deep in just over 17 minutes of work.
For a guy like Derrick Williams – who celebrated his 26th birthday with the win – this has been his first career foray into the postseason. For others, like veteran Kyle Korver – who finished with seven points on 2-of-4 shooting from deep – the victory marked his first trip to the NBA Finals after being eliminated by many of his current teammates over the past two seasons.
”I think especially since this is year 14 for me, for this to happen now it means so much,” beamed Korver. “You work all summer, you work all season for so many years in a row hoping to get to this point. I don’t think its sunk in all the way yet, but it’s really special.”
The Big Three combine for 74 points as the Cavs clinch the East.
As good as the Cavaliers have been at The Q in the postseason, they were even tougher on the road in the East Finals – beating Boston by a combined 90 points in three games at the TD Garden.
On Friday night, the Wine and Gold drilled 19 three-pointers – going 19-for-41 as a team – and handled Boston in the paint, 50-38. Defensively, Cleveland held the Celtics to 43 percent shooting, forcing 18 turnovers that the Cavs converted into a dozen points.
Turning Point — Thursday night’s turning point might have been the earliest one of the 2017 Playoffs – with the Wine and Gold jumping all over Boston in the opening moments and didn’t let up until Tyronn Lue replaced his starters to start the fourth quarter.
Kevin Love opened the night’s scoring with a three-pointer and Marcus Smart answered to tie the game on Boston’s next possession. That tie with 10:45 to play in the first quarter was as good as it would get for the overmatched Celtics – who found themselves down 10with just under eight minutes to play in the period and trailed by as many as 21 before they could escape the quarter.
The Celtics whittled Cleveland’s lead to 13 early in the second and used a mini-run to cut the Cavs’ halftime lead to 18. But the Wine and Gold put the hammer down in the third quarter – extending their edge to as many as 35 before calling off the dogs.
By the Numbers – 5,995 … career Playoff points that LeBron James has scored over the course of his iconic career – passing Michael Jordan for the top spot in NBA history. With his fourth three-pointer of the night, James also passed Manu Ginobili for 3rd place on the all-time postseason list, canning triple No. 319.
Quotable – Coach Tyronn Lue, on how his team came together in the Playoffs …
”This is a big step for us, especially what we went through all season, and we were doubted throughout the regular season all year. To come back and do what we did, to go 12-1 in the playoffs, to be playing good basketball, I’m very happy and I’m going to enjoy it until we play Golden State. With that being said, tonight I’ll start my prepping, and we’ll see what happens.”
Up Next — After posting the “gentleman’s sweep” of the Celtics, the Wine and Gold will prepare for the awaiting Warriors, who wrapped up the Western Conference Finals on Monday night. The Cavaliers will travel out to Oakland on Tuesday, with Game 1 set for next Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Game 2 is set for next Sunday (June 4) before the series returns to Cleveland for the next two – with Game 3 slated for Wednesday, June 7 and Game 4 going down on Friday, June 9. From there, the Finals go 1-1-1 – with Game 5 on June 12 in Oakland, Game 6 on Thursday night back at The Q and Game 7 the following Sunday night, June 18, on the West Coast.
Calls of the Game