CLEVELAND -- Courtesy of their Game 4 win over the Toronto Raptors Sunday afternoon, the Cleveland Cavaliers earned their way to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third straight season, a first in franchise history.
With the win Sunday, 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. In fact, the Cavaliers have won 11 straight postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at the Golden State Warriors.
But that kind of history is of little consequence to the Cavaliers as the postseason rolls on.
“You’re extremely happy to be a part of it and all of that, but at the same time, you’re not satisfied, or I’m not satisfied with what we’re doing,” shooting guard J.R. Smith said. “I know us as a team, we’re not satisfied.
“We’ve swept a lot of times, and have still only won one championship. That’s what it’s all about. If you go seven games or only play four, at the end of the day, if you don’t hold that gold ball up, you did it for nothing.”
A late 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 forward P.J. Tucker came out and buried a three-pointer on their second possession of the period. One minute later, reserve point guard Fred VanVleet knocked down a triple of his own.
However, the Cavaliers responded with a three pointer from small forward LeBron 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 guard DeMar DeRozan.
Although the Raptors took a lead when forward 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.
Point guard Kyrie Irving keyed the rally when he buried a step-back three-pointer and followed up with four free throws, as well as two driving shots in the lane. Irving scored 11 straight fourth-quarter points to put the Cavaliers back in front.
“We needed to be tested throughout 48-minute games, and one of the hardest things to do is sweep teams,” Irving said. “When you have a veteran team like this and when you go in with the mindset of, ‘We’re going to go out and compete for a full 48 minutes, no matter what’s happening, no matter what run they throw at us, no matter what physical game it turns into, whatever, we’re ready for it.’”
Although the Cavaliers were tested by both the Indiana Pacers and Raptors over the first two rounds of the playoffs, the fact that they enter the Eastern Conference Finals playing well after a struggle-filled March bodes well in Irving's opinion.
“We’ve seen lot," Irving said. "I feel like we’ve seen a lot more than a lot of other teams just from a lot of things we’ve been through as individuals and as a team, so coming into games like this, we understand how important it is, especially to come in, get a win and get rest.”
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