Cava­liers sweep Rap­tors with clin­i­cal pre­ci­sion

Too many in­juries, too much James, too much for Di­nos

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SCOTT CAC­CI­OLA The New York Times

The Toronto Rap­tors ap­proached the end with res­ig­na­tion. Too many in­juries. Too much LeBron James.

The Rap­tors still had a game to play against the Cleve­land Cava­liers at Air Canada Cen­tre Sun­day, and they talked about pride — and about hav­ing a chance, which was tech­ni­cally true. But they knew.

“Ev­ery­body was say­ing, ‘Are they vul­ner­a­ble?’” the Rap­tors’ Kyle Lowry said Satur­day, re­fer­ring to the Cava­liers. “They’re the de­fend­ing champs for a rea­son. They have a goal. They have a mis­sion, and that’s what they’re on. Good for them. We have the same goals. It just hasn’t worked out for us right now.”

The Cava­liers, who have been clin­i­cal in their pur­suit of back-to­back NBA cham­pi­onships, have yet to lose a game through two rounds of the play­offs. Re­mem­ber the col­lec­tive hand-wring­ing over their hap­haz­ard play late in the reg­u­lar sea­son? The doubts about their de­fence? It all seems so laugh­able now.

Sun­day, the Cavs com­pleted a fourgame sweep of the Rap­tors in the Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals with a 109-102 win that earned them that most cov­eted play­off com­mod­ity: sev­eral days of rest.

By dis­man­tling their first two op­po­nents, the Cava­liers are con­di­tion­ing them­selves to be even more fear­some as the post-sea­son marches on. They treated the Rap­tors and the In­di­ana Pac­ers, whom they de­feated in the first round, like piñatas. Back at their train­ing com­pound in sub­ur­ban Cleve­land, the restora­tive pow­ers of the mas­sage ta­ble and the cold tub await them.

Rest and re­cov­ery are James’ two best friends at this stage. On Sun­day, he clut­tered the box score of his 207th ca­reer play­off game with 35 points, 9 re­bounds and 6 as­sists. He is 32. Nei­ther the Pac­ers nor the Rap­tors were ca­pa­ble of stop­ping him, or even slow­ing him. Up next for the Cava­liers: the Celtics or the Wizards, who are still slug­ging it out in the other con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals.

“He seems a lot faster and quicker this year from last year,” Demar DeRozan said. “It’s in­cred­i­ble for some­one with that amount of mileage to be able to come back seem­ing faster and quicker.”

James has long been known as one of the game’s most durable play­ers. Now, in the play­offs, he has made him­self as dan­ger­ous as ever by play­ing as few games as pos­si­ble. Just the way he wants it.

Sev­eral teams out west can at least com­mis­er­ate with the Rap­tors. As the NBA edges to­ward its con­fer­ence fi­nals, the play­offs are again shap­ing up as a glo­ri­fied stage for the Cava­liers and the Golden State War­riors, who have com­bined for 15 wins (and count­ing) with­out a loss. Ev­ery­body else has been back­ground noise.

No­body would be sur­prised to see the Cavs and the War­riors back in the fi­nals for the third straight year. Both are do­ing what they can to elim­i­nate wear and tear through the open­ing rounds.

NATHAN DENETTE, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

LeBron James (23), says DeMar DeRozan, seems a lot faster and quicker than last year. “It’s in­cred­i­ble,” says the Rap­tor, whose sea­son ended Sun­day.

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