CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers will take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals after the latter finished off a 115-105 win over the Washington Wizards in Game 7 at TD Garden Monday night.
During the regular season, the Cavaliers won three of their four games against the Celtics, including a 114-91 victory at TD Garden on April 5.
Maligned for their play throughout March and beginning of April, the Cavaliers converted 43 of their 92 attempts, including 11 three-pointers and 17 of their 18 free throws in the lopsided win. The Cavaliers held a 51-38 advantage in rebounds, handed out 19 assists against 10 turnovers, stole seven passes and blocked five shots on the way to the dominating victory.
Here are five things the Cavaliers will need to beat the Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season.
IRVING TO CONTINUE TO SHINE
When Cavaliers needed him most, point guard Kyrie Irving stepped up and played a critical role in the 109-102 Game 4 victory over the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Irving keyed a 14-2 fourth-quarter rally when he buried a step-back three-pointer and followed up with four free throws, as well as a pair of driving shots in the lane. Irving scored 11 straight fourth-quarter points to put the Cavaliers back in front.
In the closeout victory, Irving scored 27 points on 10 of 24 shooting, including two three-pointers and five free throws, to go along with five rebounds, nine assists, four steals and one blocked shot over 40-plus minutes of action.
Questioned for his lack of distribution against the Indiana Pacers, Irving had the perfect answer, as after a zero-assist showing in Game 4 at Indianapolis, he averaged 8.5 assists against the Raptors, including two double-digit assist performance.
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers to face Boston Celtics in Eastern Conference Finals
KORVER TO FIND RHYTHM AGAIN
In addition to his efforts during a monumental comeback from a 25-point deficit to beat the Pacers in Game 3 of the first round, shooting guard Kyle Korver played a key role in the Cavaliers’ close-out win over the Raptors.
After getting just nine shots in the first two games against the Raptors, Korver responded by knocking down eight of his 12 looks from three-point range over the final two victories.
After being outscored in the final periods of blowout wins over the Raptors in Games 1 and 2, the Cavaliers outpaced Toronto, 60-39 in the fourth quarters of Games 3 and 4, and those close-out efforts helped secure their second straight four-game sweep in the playoffs.
During Game 4, the Raptors continued a run at the start of the fourth quarter when forward P.J. Tucker buried a three-pointer, 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.
THOMPSON TO CRASH THE BOARDS
It has long been said that rebounding is 10 percent skill and 90 percent will, and no one knows that better than Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson.
Over his six years with the Cavaliers after being selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft out of The University of Texas, Thompson has become known for his unrelenting pursuit of the basketball, particularly on the offensive end of the floor.
Because of his effort, Thompson averaged 10.6 rebounds per game over the first two rounds of the playoffs, where the Cavaliers extended their postseason winning streak to 11 games dating back to Game 5 of The Finals last June.
Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has improved his level of play since joining the team through a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the summer of 2014, but as of late, the biggest growth in his game is in maturity.
After averaging 15.5 points per game against the Pacers, Love saw noticeable drops in attempts and points in the four-game sweep of the Raptors en route to the Cavaliers’ third straight trip the conference finals.
However, his made attempts per game, 4.3, remained the same, while his shooting percent from the field increased from 41.5 to 44.7 and his three-point percentage remained at .400. Additionally, Love stole three passes over the four games against Toronto.