Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love shoots against Toronto Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas in the first half of Game 4 of thel second-round playoff series Monday in Cleveland. AP
CLEVELAND — And now they rest.
The fourth-seeded Cavaliers completed a sweep of the top-seeded Toronto Raptors on Monday, getting great performances from all their starters en route to a resounding 128-93 victory in Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland will open on the road against the winner of the Philadelphia-Boston series — the Celtics are up 3-1 — in the Eastern Conference finals, which will start no earlier than Sunday.
If the Celtics win in six games or less, the conference finals will start Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in Boston. If that series goes seven games, Game 1 will be a week from today at 8:30 p.m.
“We about to get some rest,” four-time league MVP LeBron James said. “I’ve definitely got to get some rest.”
As he almost always is, James was the most important Cavs player in Game 4, but he got plenty of help from his oft-criticized teammates — they were the subject of a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit — in this one.
James finished with 29 points on 12-for-19 shooting, eight rebounds and 11 assists in 38 minutes, while Kevin Love had 23 points on 8-for-13. Kyle Korver had 16 on 6-for-8 from the field (4-for-5 on
3-pointers), J.R. Smith had 15 on 6-for-6 (3-for-3 threes) and George Hill had 12 on 5-for-8 and five assists.
“We got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
James was the only starter to play more than 30 minutes as Cleveland’s first unit combined for 95 points on 37-for-54 shooting (.685) compared to 45 for Toronto on 18-for-40 (.450).
Even more impressive, Cavs starters not named James shot .714 (25-for-35), the highest of the 33-year-old’s postseason career.
“My teammates, they tried to bury them alive the whole series,” James said. “They took it personal. They were wonderful.”
Toronto’s Dwane Casey, who might have been coaching for his job despite a 59-win regular season, made another lineup change for Game 4. He started Serge Ibaka, who came off the bench in Game 3, at center in place of Jonas Valanciunas and inserted C.J. Miles at small forward, with guard Fred VanVleet going back to the bench. The other starters — Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and OG Anunoby — remained the same.
It didn’t work.
The Cavs trailed only briefly in the second period — and never by more than three points — before taking a 16-point halftime lead. They extended that margin to 23 midway through the third quarter before going up 35 in garbage time.
“I thought they showed their championship pedigree,” Casey said. “It’s a great example for us of the difference between the regular season and postseason.”
In many respects, it was Cleveland’s most complete game of the postseason, as James had 10 points at halftime but was just his team’s fourth-leading scorer at that stage.
“My confidence never wavered,” said James, whose team needed seven games to get past the Indiana Pacers in the first round. “It’s just who I am. I believe in who I am and what I can bring to the table and what my teammates can deliver.”
No one other than the benched Valanciunas (18 points) really stepped up for Toronto, which was outscored 12-0 over the last 3:03 of the first half.
A struggling DeRozan (13 points), who didn’t play in the fourth quarter of a tight Game 3, duplicated that feat by getting ejected with 23.4 seconds left in the third period of Game 4 after hitting Jordan Clarkson in the head on a drive to the hoop. Backcourt partner Lowry had just five points for the Raptors, who got 13 from Miles and 12 from Ibaka.
“The hardest part is they ran into LeBron James,” Lue said after his team improved to 12-2 vs. Toronto over the last three postseasons, including 10 straight wins. “They haven’t lost to no other team the last three years but us.”
The only scary moment for the Cavs — and it was brief — came when Lue tried to use a lineup of James, Clarkson, Cedi Osman, Jeff Green and Tristan Thompson to start the second period.
The results weren’t good.
Cleveland scored just six points in four minutes, allowing the Raptors, who were down 10 late in the first period, to take their first lead of the night at 38-36.
Lue made some substitutions shortly after that to get more offense back on the floor and the Cavs immediately went on an 11-2 run to go back up 47-40.
Things really swung Cleveland’s way late in the half, when Casey elected to play end-of-bench big man Lucas Nogueira over Valanciunas, who scored 10 points in his first nine-minute stint. Nogueira failed to convert a lob, blew a defensive assignment and committed a turnover — he was minus-10 in 1:51 — as the Cavs went up 63-47 at halftime.
Cleveland shot .619 from the field over the opening two quarters, with Smith going 6-for-6, Korver hitting 5-of-6 and Hill making his first four shots as the Cavs’ starters outscored Toronto’s 57-30.
The Cavs set a torrid pace early, making 13 of their first 17 shots in going up 29-19 late in the first period. Smith was on fire, going 5-for-5 for 12 points, while Hill drove right down the middle for two dunks and a layup against a Toronto defense that was putrid and didn’t get any better the rest of the night.
Now, the Cavs will rest for a few days.
“We have a long week where we can continue to get better,” James said. “We look forward to that.”
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