Cleveland Cavaliers (4-0) 109
Toronto Raptors (0-4) 102
Seven days. In what felt like a blink of the eye, the Cleveland Cavaliers first dismantled the Toronto Raptors, and then the Cavaliers hung on to finish the sweep and end the Raptors season, and perhaps the team as currently constituted as well. And it only took seven days.
It’s hard to believe the series only lasted a week, but for the Raptors organization, it was a week of hard truths and a sudden realization that they have some serious questions to address this offseason. For Cleveland, it’s more of the same. Another playoff sweep. This marks the sixth sweep for Cleveland since LeBron’s return and Cleveland has now become the first team in NBA history to sweep the first two rounds of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Kyle Korver talked frankly this week about how different the mindset is when you play for the Cavaliers, how they discuss trying to get a sweep as a stated goal. The Cavaliers value the extra week off not just for the rest, but also for the extra practice time. It’s not so much arrogance, but more just extreme confidence that if the Cavaliers take care of the things they can control, there’s nobody in the Eastern Conference that can beat them.
In Game 4, the Cavaliers looked like they were going to run away with another blowout in the third quarter. To the Raptors’ credit, they didn’t give up when they fell down by 16 but instead came marching back and even took the lead midway through the 4th quarter. But the Cavaliers simply had too many weapons and did just enough down the stretch to hang on for the win and to move on to their third straight Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, the numbers:
- 35 – We start with none other than LeBron James. You might want something deeper than just his point total to illustrate his level of dominance in this game and this series as a whole, but those 35 points were indicative of the way LeBron was able to destroy the will of the Raptors. It’s not so much that Toronto gave up…they didn’t. It’s just that deep down you could see it on their faces and in their comments to the media. The Raptors just knew. They couldn’t stop LeBron. This wasn’t quite the crazy level of ultra-efficiency LeBron had shown in the last couple games, and I’m sure LeBron won’t be happy with the 6 turnovers he committed, but it was a 35 point, 9 rebound, and 6 assist display of greatness once again.
- 11 – For whatever reason, few players entice as many hot takes from all sides as Kyrie Irving. And certainly, Kyrie has not been at the top of his game in terms of shooting in the playoffs so far this year. Yet Kyrie has shown continued growth in his overall playmaking, finding ways to help the team even when his shot isn’t falling. In this game, through three quarters, Kyrie was again struggling with his shot, hitting just 7 of 18 from the field for 16 points. While some would suggest that Ty Lue should pull Kyrie from the game, the coach instead was paid off for his confidence in his point guard. With 6:38 remaining in the game, the Raptors took a 93-92 lead to finish their comeback from a 16-point deficit. Kyrie scored the Cavaliers next 11 points to give the Cavaliers a 103-95 lead and to give the Cavaliers some breathing room.
- 24 to 10 – My absolute favorite stat in basketball is assist to turnover ratio. There are plenty of other advanced stats that people like that do different things. I just like the team assist stat because generally getting assists means the team is moving the ball and creating quality shots. For the Cavaliers in Game 4, this stat was really a tale of two halves. In the first half, they had an 18 to 5 ratio of assists to turnovers as the Cavaliers were up 61-49. In the second half, the Cavaliers had just 6 assists vs 5 turnovers. The Raptors won the half 53-48. Some of that difference is just the normal flow of the game in basketball, but for stretches of the third and fourth quarters, the Cavaliers did get away from their offense a bit. Still, Kyrie finished the game with nine assists and just one turnover. LeBron chipped in with six assists of his own. Together, LeBron and Kyrie scored or assisted on 92 of the Cavaliers 109 points. Not too shabby.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined to score or assist 92 of the Cavs' 102 points today
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 7, 2017
- 0 – One of the Cavaliers’ big struggles in the regular season was defending in transition. So many teams were able to destroy the Cavaliers in fast break opportunities. In a stat that I had to look at several times from several sources to make sure was accurate, the Cavaliers outscored the Raptors in fast break points by a 16-0 margin. That’s right, the Cavaliers gave up 0 fast break points (this includes one fast break in which DeMar DeRozan went up for a layup, but LeBron grabbed the ball from him. The play was originally ruled a jump ball before it was somehow overturned by an official, Tony Brothers, from a worse position on the court and ruled a foul). In a game the Raptors absolutely needed, the Cavaliers showed incredible desire on their own part in not conceding anything.
- 18 – Halfway through the regular season, Cavaliers GM David Griffin knew this team needed some more help. It wasn’t just LeBron asking for a playmaker to the press. Anyone could see it. Griffin went to work and was able to acquire Kyle Korver, one of the absolute best shooters in the world. His presence has made an enormous difference for this team, but that difference continues to grow as he gets more and more comfortable with his place on the team and his role in the offense. In Game 4, Korver was the X-factor for the Cavaliers, hitting 6-of-8 from three-point range en route to 18 points off the bench. Several times the Raptors would make a big shot to try to spark some momentum, only to have Korver curl off a screen on the other end and drill a dagger and counter the Raptors’ basket.
So much was made in the season about the Cavaliers waiting to flip the switch when the playoffs arrived. LeBron has somewhat scoffed at that notion. He was very much frustrated with the way the team played at times. But he was also level-headed about the reasons for why certain things were happening. Whether it’s flipping the switch or just the players getting familiar with their roles at the right time, the Cavaliers have now won eight straight games, and 11 consecutive playoff wins overall.
The Cavaliers will now watch the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards series and root for a nice, long seven-game series. All the while, Cleveland will be watching film, working on things they can do against either team, and getting some well-earned rest. We’ll see the Cavaliers again next week.