The ending’s been postponed. The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t nearly finished. On Monday night, the Cavs completed their second straight four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors, the East’s top team and the one that was supposedly built to dethrone them, with a 128-93 win in Game 4 that has perhaps changed Cleveland’s outlook.
After all the injuries, the failed Isaiah Thomas experiment, the roster overhaul at deadline the trading and other distractions, the Cavs, who can get some rest while waiting for the Philadelphia-Boston winner, are peaking at the right time. Their path to the East finals wasn’t straight. But they arrived.
“That is what our goal is.” James has been reluctant to discuss the Cavs’ chances to win a title or get back to the Finals for the fourth straight year, but his confidence has grown with each victory. Kevin Love, who struggled in a seven-game scrap with Indiana in the first round, had another solid game with 23 points.
Kyle Korver added 16, J.R. Smith scored 15 on 6-for-6 shooting and point guard George Hill, who was sidelined for three games in the Pacers series, added 12.
The Cavs were balanced and were finally able to take some of the pressure off James, who had seemingly been abandoned by his teammates through much of the postseason. In fact, things had gotten so bad that “Saturday Night Live” did a skit last weekend that went viral on social media called “The Other Cavaliers,” a parody that poked fun at Cleveland’s supporting cast. James, though, said his faith never wavered.
After winning 59 games in the regular season, the Raptors had the East’s top seed and figured that this was their year. James had other plans. Toronto came into the series feeling great. By the end, the Raptors were defeated and deflated. Exactly one year since they were last swept by James, he did it to them again.
“Everyone had counted Cleveland out,” said coach Dwane Casey, whose job could be in jeopardy.
“They struggled a little bit. They had the big trade and all that. Everyone thought they were vulnerable but as long as they have him, they have a chance and that’s what we were looking at. But 10 days ago we had all the confidence in the world.”
The All-Star was rendered ineffective in Round 1 by the Pacers, whose big men battered him and took Love out of his game. But despite cries to bench Love or move him back from center to power forward, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue stuck with him, and in doing so may have prolonged Cleveland’s season. Love said there was nothing magical about his turnaround. “It just came from me being me,” he said. “I didn’t forget how to play basketball, I was just ultra aggressive.