The Cleveland Cavaliers chances to make it to the Eastern Conference finals was in question heading into April 29, the day of game 7 vs. the Indiana Pacers. That was also the day LeBron James scored 46 points, moving on to the second round and silencing any doubts that Cleveland fans were having at the time.
At the same time, the Pacers did not go down without a fight. Indiana had eight guys on their roster that averaged double-digit points throughout the whole series. The only two people on the Cavaliers to do this in that series? LeBron James and Kevin Love, and Kevin Love barely made the mark with 11.4 points per game. It’s no secret, LeBron James and Victor Oladipo were the most dominant players on the court, and that showed as each player led their teams by a landslide in points, assists, rebounds, and steals. The difference maker in that series was James’ ability to score at will, scoring over 40 points in three games during the series, and Cleveland won all three of those games. The bad news for the Cavaliers was that they barely won the games where James went off for a ton of points, showing that a more experienced playoff team could tire James out if nobody else stepped up against the Raptors. Cleveland must have realized this, because their role players stepped up big time.
Over the series against the Raptors, Kevin Love averaged over 20 points per game with 12 rebounds per game. At the same time, Korver, Smith, and Green all averaged double digits with Smith going 10-13 from beyond the arc in the series. For anybody who is not a Cavaliers fan, this is scary. Before the Raptors series, there seemed to be more of a negative stigma in the Cavaliers locker room, as they were struggling to beat a team that many people assumed would have been beaten in 5, or maybe 6 games at most. Now that James is getting more help from his teammates, they are going to be a tough matchup going into the Eastern Conference Finals. For James, this will be his 8th straight Eastern Conference Final, and at the age of 33, he is not slowing down.
Cleveland is set up to play the winner of the Celtics and Sixer series that is now going into Game 5. With Boston up 3-1 in that series, many think it will be a rematch of last year’s Easter Conference Final between the Celtics and Cavaliers. Celtics fans are hoping this is the year James slows down, as he has a history for beating Boston in this round of the playoffs. No matter what team steps up against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Final, they will be sharp coming off of a sweep and because of that sweep, they will be coming off of more rest. This could be James’ last year in Cleveland, and he is determined to make it a good one.