CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers will make their third straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals when the best-of-seven series gets underway with Game 1 against the top-seeded Boston Celtics at TD Garden tonight.
And there is no shortage of motivation for the Cavaliers, as they are just four wins away from earning the privilege of competing for their second straight NBA Championship.
“It’s the Eastern Conference Finals,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We better be ready. What more motivation? We’re one more step toward our goal, and we know we have to play well to beat this team, so we know if we win four more games, we’ll be back in The Finals, so that’s all the motivation we need, and that’s all it should be.
“Four more games, and they could be in The Finals. Everything’s on the line right now. They understand that, we understand that. They’re pulling out all the stops, and we understand that. We’ve got to be ready for their best shot, and they’ve got to be ready for ours as well.”
The Cavaliers became the first team in the 2017 NBA Playoffs to clinch a spot in the conference finals when they closed out the four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the East Semifinals with a 109-102 win in Game 4 at Air Canada Centre on Sunday, May 7.
With the win, the Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to record back-to-back four-game sweeps over the first two rounds of the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Cavaliers have won 11 straight postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at the Golden State Warriors.
That early-round success means the Cavaliers have had nearly 20 days without games since the playoffs got underway on April 15.
“It’s time,” Lue said. “We’ve gotten here faster than Boston did, but they scratched and clawed their way. That just shows the team they’ve had all season. They play hard. They scrap. They compete. They’ve made their way here.
“That’s just the way they are, and they wouldn’t take it any other way. Just knowing some of the coaches on their coaching staff, they like the way they did it. Now, we’re both here and it’s time. They’re pretty excited, and I know we’re excited as well.”
After losing the No. 1 seed in the East during the final week of the regular season, the Cavaliers will begin an Eastern Conference Playoffs series away from Quicken Loans Arena for the first time since the 2015 East Finals, where they swept the Atlanta Hawks.
And after watching the Celtics battle their way to a Game 7 win over the Washington Wizards in front of their home fans at TD Garden Monday, the Cavaliers know the atmosphere in Boston will be at a fever pitch.
“When we’ve been having these layoffs, we’ve been having home court, and our fans have gotten us through that, so now, it’s going to be a little different, having to adjust and play on the road and carry our own weight,” Lue said.
“Our fans are not going to be behind us to start the game, so we have to bring our own energy, which I think we will. I think we’ll be fine.”