The Cleveland Cavaliers just won their 11th straight playoff game dating back to last season, and it seems to get easier for them with each victory. To be fair, no one expected the outmatched Raptors to put up much of a fight even before All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry was lost to an ankle injury for the second half of the Cavs’ four-game sweep. But the ease with which LeBron and Co. dispatched Toronto should give pause to the Celtics or Wizards as they battle to become the next four-game steppingstone to Cleveland’s inevitable Finals matchup with the Warriors. Here are five reasons that series will be a sweep, too.
Cleveland will have the best two players on the floor
This was the case against the Raptors, and it’ll be the same vs. the Celtics or Wizards, with apologies to Isaiah Thomas and John Wall. Toronto ripped open an 11-point lead 8 minutes into Sunday’s Game 4, and the Cavs had tied the score by the end of the first quarter. It all looked so easy – James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love fired passes around the perimeter that either led to wide-open jumpers or uncontested drives. All three of those guys can shoot, pass and rebound at an elite level, and it didn’t even matter that Love didn’t contribute much. Wall and Thomas are good players, but either one will be the third-best player on the floor with James and Irving. Add in Love, and that’s three of the best four players on the floor in any Eastern Conference series. That’s a recipe for not only a series win but another sweep.
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LeBron is dialed in
Yes, the competition has been light, but eight games in, he’s averaging 34.4 points (second-best in 12 playoff appearances) and shooting 55.7 percent from the field (second-best) and 46.8 from 3-point range (best). The man is 32 years old and is coming off one of his most trying regular seasons. We expect greatness, but this is something else entirely.
Cleveland doesn’t need a team effort to win
Boston and Washington are similar in that they will usually only beat a good team (not to mention a great one like the Cavs) if they get a superhuman effort from Wall or Thomas and then get most of the rest of the roster swimming in the right direction. The Cavs are proving in these playoffs that they simply need James and Irving to do what they always do, and if Love or Kyle Korver happens to get hot, that’s great, but it’s not necessary. No Cavalier other than the Big Two (this isn’t a Big Three anymore and hasn’t been for a while) scored more than 18 points in four games against the Raptors. Love was merely there when needed and J.R. Smith wasn’t even a factor. If the Cavs feel threatened at all by the Celtics or Wizards, they have plenty of room to step up before it comes to actually losing a game.
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Kyrie Irving is clutch
We don’t hear as much from Irving as the game’s other biggest stars – LeBron is the Cavs’ mouthpiece when things get rough – but when the game is on the line he’s often the one closing out the other team. When the Raptors tried to make a fourth-quarter run Sunday, Irving scored 11 straight points. That’ll be a lot for Thomas or Wall to deal with given that they have to do all their team’s work at the other end of the floor. You can bet Irving will take pride in winning the point guard matchup against either one of those players.
The Cavs NEED a sweep
It seems silly to say this because winning in five games or six will get the Cavaliers to the matchup with the Warriors just the same, but there’s a reason they are winning games now that they struggled to win all season – that lapses in February no longer take place in May. That reason is Golden State is just ahead, and the Cavaliers know they can’t face the Warriors at anything less than peak confidence. Losing even one game to the Celtics or Wizards would show a crack the Cavaliers aren’t willing to reveal – not so much to Golden State but to themselves. That alone should ensure the Cavs don’t have any more trouble sweeping through the Eastern Conference finals than they did the two previous rounds.
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