Tuesday, March 26, 2019 Medina 29°

Cavs Notes

Jim Ingraham: Cavaliers making it OK to dream again

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    The Cavaliers' LeBron James strips the ball from the Raptors' Serge Ibaka in the first half Monday at The Q.



Now THAT’s a sweep.

Practically speaking, the series was over when LeBron James hit the greatest bank shot in the history of bank shots to win Game 3.

But the rules say it takes four games to sweep, so they played one more, to make it official. Game 4, Monday night at The Q, when the Cavaliers took the Toronto Raptors to the woodshed.

The Cavs could have won by 40 points, but they benched the starters early in the fourth quarter and settled for a 35-point thrashing of a team that in the regular season won more games than the Golden State Warriors.

Toronto won 59 games in the regular season. The only team in the league that won more was Houston.

Toronto won four more games against Washington in the first round of the playoffs.

Then Toronto, with its 63 wins, played the Cavs — and were crushed by the Cavs.

The No. 4 seed swept the No. 1.

Think about that. Then think about what this might mean going forward for a Cavs team that is in the Eastern Conference finals for the fourth consecutive year.

The likely opponent will be the Kyrie Irving-less Boston Celtics, who lead Philadelphia 3-1, and figure to end that series Wednesday night in Boston.

All of a sudden, what seemed unlikely multiple times during this chaotic Cavs season, now seems more feasible than ever: a fourth consecutive trip to The Finals.

Even winning it all is suddenly on the table.

The Cavs have turned the playoffs into their own personal coming out party. They won four of seven from a tough, talented Indiana team, followed by an overwhelming four-game sweep of the No.1 seed in the East.

This opens all kinds of possibilities for the next series, and, potentially, the one after that.

Playoff messages don’t get much bigger than a No. 4 seed sweeping a No. 1 seed.

Seeds, schmeeds.

For any team that has LeBron, seeds are mere window dressing.

The Cavs will take LeBron and let the other teams have their seeds.

The Cavs’ first two series were exactly what they needed. Indiana threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the Cavs, who regrouped after a humiliating 34-point loss in Game 6 to win Game 7.

Against Toronto, the Cavs got better with each successive game, capped by their Game 4 tour-du-flush.

Their reward? The most precious reward of all this time of year — rest.

The sweep gives the Cavs — and especially that loveable old freight train himself, LeBron — extra rest before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

After playing every other day for over a week, the Cavs now get several days off in a row.

That’s never a bad thing, but the way the Cavs played in the four games against the Raptors almost makes you wish they played again tomorrow.

Because this is the version of the Cavs that team officials were hoping to eventually see after that franchise-rattling midseason roster blowup. It’s taken longer than expected. It’s been uglier than expected at times. But coming out the other side of the tunnel, you could argue that it looks even better than expected.

“I like where we’re at right now,” said Coach Tyronn Lue.

For starters, the Cavs starters have meshed into a wonderful two-way group that is playing both ends of the floor with equal efficiency. In toying with Toronto in Monday’s Game 4, LeBron, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and George Hill combined to score 95 points while shooting a combined, and ridiculous, 71 percent from the field.

All five starters were in double figures BY THE THIRD QUARTER.

The Cavs’ defense, which sparked a 12-0 run that was part of a bigger 23-7 Mardi Gras at the end of the first half, was spectacular.

“Defensively we’re playing pretty good,” Lue said. “We made shots. A lot of different guys stepped up.”

Lue himself couldn’t have scripted a better first two series to prepare his team for Boston (probably). The Cavs were tested to the point of exhaustion by Indiana, and they responded. Then they not only swept the Raptors, but they kept their foot on the gas to make sure they swept the Raptors, from whom the Cavs have won 10 consecutive playoff games, including four-game sweeps in each of the last two years.

The goal in sports is always to be peaking at the end of the season. The Cavs aren’t just peaking, they’re soaring. They are playing with an urgency, energy and intelligence unseen throughout their tumultuous regular season.

It’s almost like the excitement of finally seeing how good they can be is inspiring them to be even better.

So it’s two series down, two to go.

Eight wins down, eight more to go.

It took forever to get here, but it was worth the wait.

This is starting to get good.

Contact Jim Ingraham at 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com and follow him @Jim_Ingraham on Twitter.

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