EditorsNote: adds quotes from both coaches
LeBron James recorded 29 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds as the Cleveland Cavaliers completed a four-game Eastern Conference semifinal sweep of Toronto by rolling to a 128-93 victory over the visiting Raptors on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Kevin Love scored 23 points to help fourth-seeded Cleveland reach the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth straight campaign. Kyle Korver scored 16 points, JR Smith added 15 on 6-of-6 shooting, and George Hill had 12 points as the Cavaliers dominated top-seeded Toronto over the final 31 minutes.
Cleveland recorded its 10th straight postseason triumph over Toronto. The Cavaliers eliminated the Raptors for the third straight season.
“It was a great series for us,” James said in a postgame television interview on TNT. “We had a lot of challenges before the series knowing the domination they had in the regular season. So we had a great game plan and we just tried to execute it as close to 48 minutes as possible.”
Toronto star DeMar DeRozan scored 13 points before being ejected late in the third quarter. Backcourt partner Kyle Lowry had just five points to go with 10 assists.
Jonas Valanciunas scored a team-best 18 points for the Raptors. CJ Miles notched 13 points, Serge Ibaka added 12 and Delon Wright tallied 10.
The Cavaliers will face either the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers in the East finals. Boston leads that series 3-1.
The Raptors became the third NBA team to be swept in a series before the conference-final stage. The 1969 Baltimore Bullets dropped four in a row to the New York Knicks in the Eastern Division semifinals, and the 1951 Philadelphia Warriors fell 2-0 to the Syracuse Nationals in the Eastern Division semifinals.
The only other No. 1 seed to be swept at any point over the past 15 years was the 2015 Atlanta Hawks, who fell 4-0 to James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.
“They happened to run into LeBron,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of the Raptors. “They haven’t lost to any other team the past three years but us. I think we have a good team, and having LeBron to get through, it’s tough.”
Toronto coach Dwane Casey agreed that James was a big part of his team’s problem.
“You’re looking at one of the guys that is going to go down as one of the greatest ever,” Casey said. “It’s a matchup nightmare for anybody.”
Cleveland shot 59.5 percent from the field, including 12 of 26 from 3-point range. The Raptors shot 45.6 percent and were 4 of 15 from behind the arc.
“Defensively, we’re playing pretty good,” Lue said. “When we’re getting stops, we’re able to get out in transition and able to get pace, we’re really good.
“This series, we made shots. Guys made threes. A lot of different guys stepped up. Having four or five guys in double figures every single night is big for us. I mean, we still have to keep getting better, but I like where we’re at right now.”
The Cavaliers led by 16 at halftime and increased the margin to 20 for the first time — at 73-53 — on a basket by James with 7:55 left in the third quarter.
Back-to-back baskets by James pushed the score to 97-70, and Jordan Clarkson’s breakaway three-point play made it 100-72 with 23.6 seconds left in the third.
DeRozan fouled Clarkson and sent him sprawling to the floor. The officials reviewed the play and changed the foul call to a flagrant-2 foul, which comes with immediate ejection.
Cleveland’s lead reached 30 for the first time when Tristan Thompson converted a three-point play to make it 106-76 with 9:26 remaining.
Smith scored all 15 of his points in the first half, and the Cavaliers shot 61.9 percent from the field to take a 63-47 lead into the break.
Toronto tied the score at 40 on a layup by Miles with seven minutes remaining in the second quarter before Cleveland concluded the half with a 23-7 burst. The run included the final 12 points of the half.
“I thought they showed their championship pedigree,” Casey said of the Cavaliers. “A great example for us on the difference between the regular season and a playoff run, and they’re playing at a high level right now.”
—Field Level Media