Cleveland Cavaliers – 135
Boston Celtics – 102
For the third-consecutive year, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to the NBA Finals. A LeBron James-led team brings with it the highest expectations, and the inevitability of this year’s Finals matchup has made the daily greatness harder to appreciate. But a Cleveland team, a defending champion Cleveland team no less, just dominated the Boston Celtics, 135-102 and are just four wins away from winning back-to-back titles.
The Cavs did it on the back of all-time scoring leader in the NBA playoffs and possibly greatest player of all time, LeBron James. They did it while losing only one game through the first three rounds of the playoffs. They did it with the best offense in the playoffs, with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love playing some of the best basketball they’ve ever played and with Tristan Thompson growing into a star of his own.
They didn’t just do all those things, they did them in impressive fashion. In the deciding Game 5, Cleveland jumped out to a 16-point first quarter lead on the back of a franchise playoff record 43 points. They maintained that pace for the duration of the game, reaching an NBA playoff record 75 points by halftime and crossing the century mark before the end of the third quarter on their way to their 12th win in 13 games this postseason.
The Big Three each took turns carrying the offense, with Love following the Cavs normal trend of getting the first few looks in order to get No. 0 in rhythm from the start.
Irving followed his incredible performance in Game 4 with more spectacular moves. His ability to not only get to the rim, but finish the play is incredible. You can argue that he is one of the best under-the-rim finishers in NBA history.
If it’s possible to be more exciting than Irving’s winding, twisting, spinning layups, he is again hitting his pull-up three-point attempts, making him nearly impossible to guard. Boston found that out the hard way.
The Celtics just had no answer for James’ mix of size and speed, much like the NBA hasn’t had an answer since the day he was drafted. He was able to bully anyone in front of him on his way to the rim, almost making it seem like he was a grown man against boys at times.
But No. 23 was also hitting from long distance after being hesitant from long-range after proving that he was in fact human in Game 3.
But, in what is always a sign of the Cavaliers clicking, James, Irving, and Love found other ways to contribute as well. James added eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block. Irving created good looks for his teammates and played solid defense, along with adding seven assists and two steals. Love was again the game’s leading rebounder with 11 rebounds and added three assists and four steals as well.
The Cavaliers also got production from their bench unit. Deron Williams scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and provided a spark for the second unit, Kyle Korver hit two threes that helped stop any momentum going Boston’s way, and James Jones, he of seven straight Finals appearances, had this amazing put-back dunk:
This is most likely the best Cavs team that will ever exist. It may be the best Cleveland team to ever exist, period. Like a lot of those past teams, they may not win it all this year, but that shouldn’t change how we appreciate and celebrate them. This run has been incredible. LeBron James has been incredible. This moment is incredible. Enjoy it, Cleveland.
Let’s look behind the box score at this one:
10 – Players that scored multiple baskets for the Cavaliers in this game.
25.8 – Points averaged by Kyrie Irving during the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the ECF, Kyrie averaged 25.8 points while shooting 62% (!) from the field, 50% from long distance, and 92% at the free-throw line.
— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) May 26, 2017
0 – Leads held by Boston in their three home games during the Eastern Conference Finals. This Cavaliers team is not scared of a hostile environment on the road. In fact, LeBron has hinted that he prefers it.
6 – Days off until Game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 1.
0 – Minutes head coach Tyronn Lue claims he has spent preparing for the Golden State Warriors. Also the number of people who believe him.
120 – LeBron took 120 fewer shots than Michael Jordan on his way to becoming the all-time leading playoff scorer in the playoffs.
Enjoy the early bedtimes for the next six days before the Finals begin (all the Finals games start at 9 p.m. ET). And enjoy this team!