CLEVELAND CAVALIERS RELEASE
Eight days ago, Wine & Gold were on the verge of a First Round collapse. When they wake up on Tuesday morning, they’ll be gearing up for their fourth straight showdown for the Eastern Conference crown.
The Cavaliers figured out four uniquely different ways to beat the East’s top regular season squad – including Monday night’s 36-point blowout in the deciding Game 4 at The Q to wrap up the Conference Semis and sweep the Raptors out of the Playoffs for the second straight season.
Cleveland made it 10 straight postseason wins over the Raptors – who must now head into the offseason searching for answers. Toronto dropped Game 1 without leading in regulation, lost Game 2 after shooting 54 percent from the field and fell on Saturday when LeBron James canned a game-winner at the buzzer after they’d erased a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit.
In Monday’s Game 4, the Cavaliers came out sharp, stumbled momentarily in the second quarter, hit the accelerator right before intermission and barely let the Raptors breathe the rest of the way.
Cleveland got balanced scoring in Monday’s elimination game – with all five starters notching double-figures in the win. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 60 percent from the floor, canned 12 triples to Toronto’s four and hit on 80 percent of their free throws.
The Cavaliers led by double-figures in the opening quarter, but Toronto fought back to take a two-point edge with eight minutes to play in the second period. But that was as good as it’d get for the Raptors – who saw Cleveland outscore them, 23-7, heading into the locker room. Dwane Casey’s squad didn’t get closer than two touchdowns the rest of the way.
”When we’re getting stops, can get out in transition and play with pace, we’re really good,” praised Tyronn Lue. “I think that in this series, we made shots. Guys made threes and a lot of different guys stepped up. Having four or five guys in double figures every single night is big for us. We still have to continue to keep getting better but I like where we’re at right now.”
LeBron James wrapped up another epic series – following up his dramatic game-winning performance on Saturday with a rock-solid performance in Game 4, leading both squads with 29 points, going 12-of-19 from the floor and 5-of-8 from the stripe. The four-time MVP – who averaged 34.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists in the series – also led both teams with 11 assists and eight boards, adding two steals and a blocked shot in 38 efficient minutes of work.
”Every game, from the seven-game series in the Indiana series to the four games here, we’re just trying to get more and more familiar with each other as a unit,” said James following the win. “I know Kev (Kevin Love), Kev knows me, and Tristan (Thompson) and JR (Smith) and Kyle (Korver), but everybody else, we want to continue to learn and see where we can be as productive as they can be to help us be successful as a team.”
Kevin Love stayed strong after struggling offensively in Game 1 – following up with 23 points, going 8-of-13 from the floor, including 2-of-4 from long-range, to go with six boards, a pair of steals and two blocked shots.
Cleveland’s dual sharpshooters – Kyle Korver and JR Smith – were nearly perfect in Game 4.
Korver finished with 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting, including a 4-for-5 mark from deep, adding two assists and a steal. Smith bounced back from a scoreless Game 3 – adding 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, to go with three assists, two boards and a pair of steals.
George Hill notched half of his 12 points in the first quarter – going 3-for-3 in the period to set the tone early with a pair of fast break dunks. On the night, the 10-year veteran went 5-of-8 from the field to go with five assists.
The Raptors had another frustrating combined performance by their All-Star backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Lowry, who finished with a series-high 27 points in Game 3, was barely a factor on Wednesday night – tallying just five points on 2-for-7 shooting. He did manage to lead Toronto with 10 assists in the loss.