The Cleveland Cavaliers pummeled the Boston Celtics 135-102 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night to set up a third straight matchup against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Game 5 allowed the Cavaliers to break numerous records on their way to the Finals once again, now holding the league record with 13 straight victories in closeout games as a franchise in the playoffs lasting from 2009 to now. He had taken his post-season career points total to 5,995 by the time he took a seat for the entire fourth quarter - along with the rest of Cleveland's starters.
The Big Three of LeBron James (35 points, eight rebounds and eight assists), Kyrie Irving (24 points and seven assists) and Kevin Love (15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals) ensured there wouldn't be a Game 6 against Boston, while the team as a whole drilled 19 three-pointers in an offensive explosion. He quickly flashed one finger as he backpedaled down the court.
"Anytime I'm linked to any of the greats, even the greatest in Mike, it's just an honor", James said on Thursday. "I feel like Mike was so ... you know, when you're growing up and you see Michael Jordan it's nearly like a God. Because I think we saw it first hand, especially in these home games". I'd be lying if I said I don't feel a little bit nervous picking against LeBron James, but I just think the Warriors have too much talent. "As of tonight, I'll get started". "I know toward the end of the season there were some rough patches".
James, 32, surpassed Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in the play-offs.James calmly turned, flashed the No. 1 over his head, and headed down the floor, as the Cleveland bench applauded. Deron Williams made 2-of-3.
LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving jumped on the Celtics right away. By the 5:20 mark in the first quarter it was 23-12 and the lead would never shrink back to single digits. But the Cavs have three.
"This is great learning for how far we have to go", Stevens said. "As insane as it sounds, going into halftime, we had cut it to at least a manageable number".
"And honestly we didn't want IT to go down", Irving continued.
The Celtics, meanwhile, struggled to score, defend and take care of the basketball. There would be only complete domination from start to finish by the defending National Basketball Association champions and an end to the Celtics upstart playoff run. If you remove Bradley's field goals, the Celtics shot an abysmal 39.3% with their season on the line.
Other than that, coach Tyronn Lue said he was not focused on the Warriors as yet. "Cleveland just outplayed us in this series".
But the Celtics have the No. 1 pick in the draft, along with the salary cap space to sign a top free agent. Cleveland not only won all three games in Boston, but they didn't trail for even a second and compiled a +90 point differential. For their superstar, LeBron James, it's his seventh straight Finals.
Once the sting of the loss to the Cavs wears off, the Celtics' 2017 playoff run will be remembered for Isaiah Thomas' valiant performance while coping with the death of his sister, a spectacular game 7 win over the Wizards, and a miraculous comeback win in game 3 against the Cavs.