CLEVELAND -- Fourth quarters have been very, very good to the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors through the first two rounds of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
After being outscored by the Raptors in blowout wins over Games 1 and 2, the Cavaliers outpaced Toronto, 60-39 in the fourth quarters of Games 3 and 4, and those closeout efforts helped secure their second straight four-game sweep in the playoffs.
“We just have some great veteran leadership, some veterans that do a good job of staying ready,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said.
“They just come out with that mindset that we want to push the lead, and when you have a special player like LeBron that’s leading like that, it does make it a little bit easier. It definitely takes a high level of IQ for the game, and a high level of execution on both ends. So when we’re doing that, we’re a hard team to beat.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers battle Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
During Game 4, the Raptors continued a scoring run at the start of the fourth quarter when forward P.J. Tucker came out and buried a three-pointer on their second possession of the period and one minute later, reserve point guard Fred VanVleet knocked down a triple of his own.
Although the Raptors took a lead when center Serge Ibaka converted a three-point play, the advantage did not last long, as the Cavaliers went on a 14-2 run and never looked back.
Irving keyed the rally when he buried a step-back three-pointer and followed up with four free throws, as well as a driving shot. Irving scored 11 straight fourth-quarter points to put the Cavaliers back in front, and small forward LeBron James got the Cavaliers ahead by double digits, 106-95, when with the shot clock wearing down, he knocked down a three-point shot.
“It really comes down to having a special player like ‘Bron making plays for all our guys out there, as well as our other guys stepping up, being willing to run in transition as well as get back in transition on the defensive end, making big-time plays and just everyone limiting the Raptors to one shot, and us being very, very maniacal on the other end, just getting every shot we want,” Irving said.
Shooting guard Kyle Korver added, “It’s great. I think the last series, we kind of had this too. We’re all guys that have played a bunch of years. We’re a veteran unit. We are a second unit, but we have LeBron on that unit, so it’s not really a second unit. I think it’s just a different unit, and there are times where we’re able to get that going, and I thought we played really good basketball.”
Prior to Game 4 against the Raptors, the Cavaliers made a couple of their fourth-quarter comebacks with Irving and power forward Kevin Love on the bench.
But in Game 4, Irving played a critical role in the Cavaliers’ series-clinching victory.
“That unit has been great for us,” Love said. “That gives us a lot of confidence. We know that it’s always been ‘Next Man Up,’ but we can insert anybody into the lineup, and they can be effective and efficient.”