For the third straight season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals.
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 Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 109-102 win in Game 4 at Air Canada Centre Sunday afternoon.
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.
Cavaliers small forward LeBron James led the way with 35 points to go along with nine rebounds, six assists and a blocked shot. Additionally, point guard Kyrie Irving scored 27 points to go along with nine assists, five rebounds and four steals.
The Cavaliers got double-digit efforts from guard Kyle Korver (18 points) and forward Channing Frye (10) off the bench. Korver knocked down four of his six looks from three-point range, while Frye buried two of his three attempts from long distance.
The Cavaliers struggled on the offensive end of the floor early in Game 4 against the Raptors with a raucous crowd at Air Canada Centre, but a 13-2 scoring run over the final three minutes evened the score at 28-28 after the first quarter of play.
With their backs against the proverbial wall, the Raptors came out firing in Game 4 and built an 11-point lead, 21-10, on the strength of a 16-4 scoring run.
The Raptors hit 10 of their 16 attempts from the field (62.5 percent) and two of their four looks from three-point range. At one point in the first quarter, the Raptors buried 10 of 11 shots from the field.
Power forward Serge Ibaka delivered a rush of offense by knocking down three of his first five shots from the field on the way to seven points in the game’s first nine minutes. Toronto’s other starters, forward P.J. Tucker, center Jonas Valanciunas, point guard Cory Joseph and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan combined for 16 points.
James led the way with 10 first-quarter points, including a driving layup and ensuing free throw to close out a three-point play and even things at 28 all late in the period.
During the Cavaliers’ scoring run, shooting guard J.R. Smith and reserve power forward Channing Frye each buried three-pointers.
The Cavaliers used strong shooting from Korver to take a 61-49 lead over the Raptors after the first half.
The Cavaliers surged ahead of the Raptors, 51-41, thanks to a 17-6 scoring run over a five-minute stretch that started at the eight-minute mark of the second quarter.
During the run, the Cavaliers got a long-distance shot from power forward Kevin Love, as well as a pair of triples from Korver. In addition to the three-pointers, Korver added a pair of jumpers inside the three-point arc.
Korver’s second three-pointer at the 3:54 mark of the second quarter gave the Cavaliers their first double-digit lead of the game, 51-41. Korver hit four of his first five shots from the field, including two of his three looks from three-point range.
Then, Korver added a pair of late second-quarter three-pointers that keyed an 8-0 scoring run and helped put the Cavaliers in front of the Raptors by 12 points at the half.
The Cavaliers turned 11 Toronto turnovers into 17 points in the first half. Led by four from Irving and two from reserve point guard Deron Williams, the Cavaliers collected eight steals over the first 24 minutes of play.
The Cavaliers maintained their lead over the Raptors after three quarters of play in Game 4, but it was far from easy, as the home team came out strong to start the third quarter.
The Cavaliers pushed their lead up to 16 points with a quick 8-4 run over the first three minutes of the second half.
Irving initiated the scoring when he swished a technical foul free throw, and then, five seconds later, buried a 20-foot jump shot. Then, after the Raptors scored their first basket of the half, a layup from DeRozan, James fired up and knocked down a 28-foot three-point shot.
When Irving shot a 15-foot pull-up jumper, the Cavaliers took a 69-53 advantage, but the Raptors had quite the answer in the form of a 20-9 scoring run that made it a five-point game with 2:38 to play in the third quarter.
The free-throw line and three-point shots were the Raptors’ greatest weapons during the run.
The Raptors knocked down three of their four attempts from the free-throw line, and got three-pointers from Ibaka and Tucker.
The Cavaliers stemmed the tide when James got a pair of free throws to fall, and after DeRozan made a 21-footer, reserve forward Channing Frye responded with a dunk off of a pass from Irving, and then, a 25-foot three-point shot set up by James’ ability to get into the lane.
A 5-0 run from the Raptors made it a five-point game after the third quarter of play.
The Raptors continued their run at the start the of the fourth quarter when 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.
However, the Cavaliers responded with a three pointer from James and a two-point shot from center Tristan Thompson. Shooting guard Iman Shumpert preserved the four-point advantage heading into the media timeout when he blocked a shot from DeRozan.
Then, after a five-footer from Valanciunas, Korver buried a deep three-pointer, his fourth of the game.
Although the Raptors took a lead when Ibaka converted a three-point play, the advantage did not last long, as the Cavaliers went on a 14-2 run.
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.
James put the Cavaliers ahead by double digits, 106-95, when with the shot clock wearing down, he converted a three-point shot.
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