The Cleveland Cavaliers completed their first-round sweep of the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon, prevailing in a hotly contested Game 4 in Boston. LeBron James led the Cavaliers to the 101-93 win with a near triple-double, scoring 27 points to go along with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Immense playoff success
James’ teams have won 13 straight first-round games and are 28-3 in first-round games over the last seven postseasons. His teams have swept their first-round series five times in his career. Of the previous four times, three of them led to Finals appearances.
As noted by the Elias Sports Bureau, James trails only Robert Horry (16-0) and Derek Fisher (15-0) for most first-round series wins without a series loss since 1984, with a 10-0 record in first-round series in his career.
This series marks the sixth time James’ team swept any best-of-seven series. According to Elias, only Tim Duncan (eight) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (seven) have recorded more best-of-seven series sweeps.
James has 33 career playoff games with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, which is the most in NBA history, according to Elias. Abdul-Jabbar had 31 such games, followed by Elgin Baylor with 29.
Tempers flare in Boston
Sunday’s game included several instances of physical play, most notably J.R. Smith striking Jae Crowder in the face while going for a rebound. Smith was ejected. Exactly two years ago (April 26, 2013), Smith was ejected for elbowing the Celtics’ Jason Terry in a playoff game in Boston when Smith was a member of the New York Knicks.
Kendrick Perkins had been in the game 37 seconds before setting an aggressive screen on Crowder, which led to a double technical foul on both after they were separated during an altercation. Over the last five seasons, Perkins has recorded 67 technical fouls, tied for third in the NBA behind Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins.
A costly injury?
It has yet to be determined whether Smith will be suspended by the NBA for any part of the Cavaliers' next series, and they could also be without another one of their top players in Kevin Love. Love got tangled up with Kelly Olynyk in the first quarter, injuring his left shoulder. He headed directly for the locker room and did not return to the game.
Love averaged 18.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in the previous three games of the series and led the team by shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. The Cavaliers outscored teams by 6.6 points per 100 possessions with Love on the court during the regular season and were outscored by 1.5 per 100 possessions with Love on the bench.
The Cavaliers will face the winner of the series between the Bulls and the Bucks, in which the Bulls hold a 3-1 lead. ESPN's BPI predicts that the Bulls, after taking their lead, have a 97 percent chance to win the series (a 77 percent chance to close in Game 5 at home Monday). This season, the Cavaliers defeated the Bulls in three of their four meetings.