CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers were swept out of the 2018 NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors and came up short of the ultimate goal of a league championship for the third time in the last four years.
And yet, when the Cavaliers walked out of Quicken Loans Arena following their series-ending Game 4 loss to the Warriors Friday night, they did so proud of their accomplishments ahead of the four-game sweep.
“Very proud,” Cavaliers point guard George Hill said. “No one expected the Cavs to be here after the drop-off that they had toward the middle of the season. After the trade deadline, we got some great guys in here and it was hard to come together and nobody thought we’d come together in time to make a good playoff run.
“When you have one of the best players in the world on your team, you lead by his example and go out and give it all you have. He gave us a great chance to win every night, and we found ourselves playing in the Finals. I’m very excited to have an opportunity to play with him, and hopefully, he will come back next year and we can do a lot more.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers face Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of 2018 NBA Finals
The Cavaliers were mired in a mid-season slump, and reportedly, had a heated team meeting where power forward Kevin Love, a two-time NBA All-Star in four years in Cleveland, was the subject of much ridicule from guards Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade.
Knowing that something needed to be changed, the Cavaliers made three trades at the mid-February deadline to bolster their roster.
In exchange for point guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance Jr., the Cavaliers sent Thomas, power forward Channing Frye and their first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Then, the Cavaliers dealt guard Iman Shumpert to Sacramento and both forward Jae Crowder and point guard Derrick Rose to the Utah Jazz for guard Rodney Hood and Hill.
“Everything that this team has been through, the players have been great,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “They stuck with it. Never gave in. We had plenty of opportunities to fold, and we didn't. I think our coaches did a great job of just keeping guys ready, coming up with game plans to try to be the best that we could be defensively.
“After all the stuff that we've been through and for the guys to pull together and get this far when a lot of people counted us out, we're very proud of the guys. It's a big step for us.”
In addition to the roster turnover and an injury to Love that kept him out of the lineup for nearly two months, the Cavaliers announced Lue needed a medical leave of absence to address lingering health problems that were aggravated by a West-Coast trip just weeks ahead of the start of the postseason.
And yet, the Cavaliers fought through the challenges, won the Central Division Championship, battled through a pair of seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics, and defeated the Nos. 5, 2 and 1 seeds in the Eastern Conference to get to The Finals for the fourth consecutive season.
“We’ve got to hold our heads up high,” forward Jeff Green said. “We battled. We fought. We continued to fight. Everybody counted us out from the start, so it was a good run. It was a good run for us. I wish it just ended a little bit different.”