CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers are once again 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 a 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.
Here are five takeaways from the Cavaliers’ sweep of the Raptors:
CAVALIERS HAVE BALANCED ATTACK
Although the Cavaliers have found success in eight straight games, they have done so with different role players coming up with key plays at different times of the postseason.
Cavaliers small forward LeBron James led the way in Game 4 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.
“Our balance is tremendous,” shooting guard J.R. Smith said. “At one point during the fourth quarter, we had three starters on the bench, and our bench guys were going out there playing extremely well, and that’s another good plus about our team because guys don’t get salty that they’re not in the game.
“We understand what this is about, and what we’re trying to accomplish. It was an unbelievable shooting display that Kyle put on for us, so it’s great. That’s why he’s here, and that’s why we’ve got so many shooters around ‘Bron and Ky, so they can make plays.”
CAVALIERS RAISE LEVEL OF PLAY IN FOURTH QUARTER
Fourth quarters have been good to the Cavaliers against the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors through the first two rounds of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
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 closeout 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.
IRVING CONTINUES TO SHINE
Prior to Game 4 against the Raptors, the Cavaliers made many of their fourth-quarter comebacks with Irving and power forward Kevin Love on the bench.
However, it was in Game 4 that Irving played a critical role in the Cavaliers’ comeback victory.
Irving keyed the 14-2 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 for good.
CAVALIERS PLAYING AT HISTORICAL LEVELS
Over the last three weeks, the Cavaliers have certainly put behind them the struggles of the end of the regular season.
Courtesy of the Game 4 win over the Raptors, the Cavaliers advanced 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. The Cavaliers have won 11 straight postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at the Golden State Warriors.
HISTORY MEANS LITTLE TO CAVALIERS
Although the Cavaliers made history with their fourth straight sweep in the first and second rounds of the NBA Playoffs, they are focused on a different kind of history, one that requires eight more victories over the next month to attain.
“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,” 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.”
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