CAVA­LIERS STORM INTO FI­NALS

Cleve­land over­power Celtics to set up show­down with War­riors

New Straits Times - - Sport -

THE Cleve­land Cava­liers, fu­elled by an­other mile­stone night for LeBron James, pow­ered into a third straight NBA Fi­nals meet­ing with the Golden State War­riors with a dom­i­nant 135-102 win over the Celtics in Bos­ton on Thurs­day.

“King” James sur­passed NBA icon Michael Jor­dan as the league’s all-time lead­ing play­off scorer.

He fin­ished the game with 35 points, book­ing his sev­enth straight fi­nals ap­pear­ance as the reign­ing cham­pion Cavs wrapped up a 4-1 vic­tory over the Celtics in the best-of-seven Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals.

For the third straight year they’ll face the War­riors for the crown.

“We all need to soak this up. This is a great mo­ment, and this is not promised,” James said.

The War­riors, who beat Cleve­land for the ti­tle in 2015, swept the San An­to­nio Spurs in the West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals and host game one of the cham­pi­onship se­ries in Oak­land on Thurs­day.

Cleve­land jumped to a quick 145 lead and were up by 43-27 af­ter the first quar­ter — post­ing a fran­chise record for points in a quar­ter of a play­off game.

Cleve­land’s 75 first half points were the most in an NBA play­off game half since 2003 and gave them an 18-point cush­ion.

James had come into the con­test need­ing 28 points to pass Jor­dan — win­ner of six ti­tles with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s — for first on the post-sea­son scor­ing list.

He did it with a three-pointer late in the third quar­ter — the first of a string of three straight from be­yond the arc.

In ad­di­tion to lead­ing all scor­ers he had eight as­sists and eight re­bounds. He had taken his post­sea­son 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.

Kyrie Irv­ing — who scored 42 points in Cleve­land’s game-four vic­tory — added 24 points and Kevin Love con­trib­uted 15.

The Cavs’ ‘Big Three’ were strongly backed by their re­serves. Deron Wil­liams added 14 off the bench for Cleve­land, who led by as many as 39.

“(We) went through some tough times in the reg­u­lar sea­son, but we knew we had con­fi­dence to be great,” Cavs coach Ty­ronn Lue said.

As Cleve­land fal­tered in the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Celtics had seized the top seed in the East. But it meant lit­tle as Bos­ton never led in any of their home games in the se­ries.

James, Irv­ing and Love took com­mand from the open­ing tipoff on Thurs­day.

Love scored Cleve­land’s first eight points and fin­ished the open­ing frame with 10 points and five re­bounds. James scored 11 points with six as­sists in the pe­riod and Irv­ing, show­ing no sign of the twisted left an­kle he suf­fered in the third quar­ter of game four, scored nine as Cleve­land shot 64 per cent from the field in the first quar­ter.

Bos­ton’s Avery Bradley tried to fight back with 14 points in the sec­ond quar­ter. He fin­ished the game with 23, but the Celtics never came close to mount­ing a rally.

“We’re def­i­nitely dis­ap­pointed. I felt like if we weren’t, it would be a prob­lem,” Bradley said. “We feel like we should be here, and we feel like we should be a cham­pi­onship-con­tend­ing team.”

The Cava­liers, who ral­lied from a 3-1 se­ries deficit to beat the War­riors in last year’s fi­nals, set an NBA record in win­ning their 13th straight play­off se­ries po­ten­tial close­out game.

The Los Angeles Lak­ers had set the pre­vi­ous record of 12 straight wins in po­ten­tial elim­i­na­tion games from 2000-2004.

RE­SULT — Semi-fi­nal play­off (best of seven se­ries): Cleve­land 135 Bos­ton 102 (Cleve­land win 41).

AFP PIC

Celtics’ Jaylen Brown (No 7) tries to score against Celtics in their NBA Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals in Bos­ton on Thurs­day.

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