What felt like an inevitable formality all playoffs is now official, as the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled through the Boston Celtics in Game 5 to set up a third straight meeting with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers reasserted control over the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night with a 112-99 win over the Celtics, one in which Kyrie Irving destroyed the Celtics with 42 points while playing on a bum ankle.
"The closeout game is always the hardest and Boston is going to make it even harder", said LeBron James, who rebounded from a playoff-low 11 points in Game 3 to score 34 in Game 4. The Celtics will need to overcome losing Isiah Thomas to a hip injury that might require surgery, and their rookie sensation Jaylen Brown is questionable with the same type of hip issue.
The Cleveland regulars were 16 of 33 from behind the arc through three quarters - after the Cavs went 19 of 39 on treys in a 44-point win in Game 2.
"I didn't have it", said James. The Boston Celtics clearly had something to say about that.
Kyrie Irving had 24 points and seven assists and the Cavaliers, who sat their starters for the entire fourth quarter. James doesn't like to talk about scoring numbers; he never wants to be classified as someone who just scores.
"I think collectively you take away what elite looks like, because I think we saw it first-hand, especially in these home games", said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, whose team also lost 117-104 and 130-86 in their own building. All great quarterbacks. You know, and it should be the same for us.
The Warriors going undefeated the first three rounds, with coach Steve Kerr debilitated with a spinal condition, shows not only the collective talent Kerr oversees, but the planning Kerr did. This year they crushed the Celtics, the No. 1 seed that fell behind No. 8 seed Chicago, 2-0, in the first round before winning four games after Rajon Rondo went down. We got heart. This team got heart.
Let's be real, the Cavs will make it to the NBA Finals to face the Golden State Warriors. In the 111-108 Game 3 win, the Celtics had 28 assists and in the Game 5 loss they tallied 26. "I didn't go bald like Mike but I'm getting there".
To take that next step, Wall is going to have to get over the hump when it comes to crunch time in the postseason.
For the sake of the Cavaliers, we hope to see the dominant James, because the James we've seen since game three will not cut it against a stacked Warriors team, which is resting and waiting for them. Please don't tell me that there's anyone in the National Basketball Association that is more "valuable" to his team. "I think I've made more than I've missed, though, so the percentages are pretty good".