The Cleveland Cavaliers are bound for the NBA Finals for the third straight season.
By winning the Eastern Conference Championship with a 135-102 Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics at TD Garden Thursday night, the Cavaliers earned the right to face the Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors for the NBA title for third straight season.
The rubber match between the Cavaliers and Warriors marks the first time in NBA history that the same two teams will play each other in The Finals in three consecutive seasons.
En route to passing Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan for the most points in NBA Playoffs history, Cavaliers small forward LeBron James scored a game-high 35 on 13-of-18 shooting, including a four-for-seven showing from three-point range.
James added eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and one blocked shot over 35 minutes of action. For the second time in three games at Boston in the East Finals, James and his fellow starters did not play in the fourth quarter because of the Cavaliers’ lead on the scoreboard.
By making nine of his 15 looks at the basket, including four triples, point guard Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and assisted on seven other Cavaliers hoops, while power forward Kevin Love finished off a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Love added three assists, four steals and a blocked shot in the win.
Reserve point guard Deron Williams added 14 points off the bench.
Behind a record-setting point total, the Cavaliers staked themselves out to a 43-27 lead over the Celtics at the end of the first quarter.
James led the way with 11 points on a perfect five-for-five effort from the field. Love added 10 points and Irving chipped in nine. Off the bench, Korver scored six points on a pair of made three-pointers.
Built largely on the offensive prowess of Love, the Cavaliers started the game on a 14-5 run and forced a Celtics timeout with 8:07 to play in the first quarter.
Just over a minute into the game, Love got the Cavaliers rolling with a 25-foot three-pointer from the left wing. Then, on the next possession, Love answered a Marcus Smart three-pointer when he caught a pass from James and converted a six-foot jumper.
Love was far from finished, as then, he buried his second three-pointer of the first quarter from the right corner of the floor. Love was set up for the triple by a pass from James.
Love had his next two-point attempt blocked by Boston forward Jae Crowder, but that is when James went to work scoring the ball.
James corralled the loose ball and got the put-back to fall. Then, on the next trip down the floor, James fought off contact from Crowder and made the layup. Although James missed the ensuing free throw, he remained aggressive on the offensive end of the floor.
Up by 11 points after a layup from center Tristan Thompson as well as baskets from Irving and fellow guard J.R. Smith, James again fought through a foul and got a layup to go. Then, after stealing a pass from Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko, James got space in the lane after a post-up and threw down a right-handed dunk that put the Cavaliers up, 28-12, and forced another Boston timeout.
The Cavaliers later pushed the lead to 21 points when Korver buried back-to-back three-pointers on passes from James and Irving converted a three-point play.
Irving gave the Cavaliers the franchise record for the most points scored in a quarter of a playoff game when he buried a deep three-pointer from the right wing with one minute to play in the first period.
The Cavaliers continued their hot-shooting start and set the franchise record for the most points scored in a half on the way to a 75-57 lead over the Celtics.
James led the way with 20 points on seven-of-eight shooting. Additionally, James pulled down seven rebounds, handed out seven assists, stole three passes and blocked a shot over 23 minutes of play.
The Cavaliers started the second quarter on a 9-4 run and after three free throws, one from Korver on a technical foul against Gerald Green and two more from James on a personal foul, also against Green, they held a 52-31 lead over the Celtics with 9:48 to play before halftime.
The Cavaliers put the lead back up to 21 points, 57-36, when Williams caught a pass from James and knocked down a three-pointer from 26 feet away on the right wing at the 7:22 mark of the quarter.
After a pair of free throws from Love pushed the lead to 23 points, the Celtics trimmed it down to 18 with a 5-0 run, but the Cavaliers answered when guard Iman Shumpert made a two-point shot and Williams buried his second triple of the quarter.
Following a nearly two-minute scoring drought, James got a driving layup to fall, and Williams continued to be a force when he drew a foul from Green while making a layup. Williams converted the three-point play for his 12th point of the quarter and gave the Cavaliers a 69-49 edge.
There was no let-up from the Cavaliers in the third quarter, as they used three-point shooting and aggressiveness from James to build a 109-74 lead over the Celtics.
Irving came out firing in the second half, and scored the Cavaliers’ first 11 points.
Irving got the scoring initiated when he buried a 25-foot step-back three-pointer from the wing, and less than a minute later, he caught a pass from James and knocked down a 15-footer from the right side of the free-throw line.
On the next trip down the floor, Irving pulled up for and buried his second triple of the quarter, and that gave the Cavaliers an 83-63 lead over the Celtics with 10:15 to play in the period. Irving kept the good times rolling when he ended a scoring drought with a 23-foot step-back three-pointer from the left corner.
After Irving’s quick start, James converted a driving layup and then, knocked down a jumper, which pushed Cleveland’s lead out to 25 points, 90-65, and forced a Celtics timeout.
Over their next four baskets, the Cavaliers alternated twos and threes, as James threw down a thunderous right-handed dunk and shooting guard J.R. Smith followed up with an off-balance three-pointer from the right wing.
Then, after an Irving jumper, power forward Kevin Love used his dribble to set up a 25-foot step-back three-pointer from the right wing and gave the Cavaliers a 30-point advantage, 100-70, with 3:27 to play in the quarter.
The Cavaliers’ next three-pointer was a record setter, as James pulled up for and buried a left-wing triple, which gave him the most points in NBA Playoffs history.
For good measure, James added a right-wing three-pointer for Cleveland’s next basket, and then, pulled up from well beyond the arc and converted his third straight triple, en route to tallying the Cavaliers’ final nine points of the third quarter.
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