LeBron James is heading to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth consecutive year after the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 100-99 to complete a 4-0 sweep in the second round playoff series. Three-point shooting once again led the Cavaliers as they held off a hungry Hawks team in the fourth for a 100-99 win on Sunday in Atlanta.
Kevin Love led the way in Game 4 by making eight threes on his way to 27 points and 13 rebounds. LeBron James added 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and Kyrie Irving had 21 points. The Cavaliers were 16-of-37 from behind the three-point line.
Paul Millsap had 19 points in the loss as the Hawks were swept out of the playoffs by the Cavaliers for the second straight season.
The Hawks offense came out firing in the first. They put up 36 points in the first quarter and went into the half with a 58-56 lead, despite the Cavaliers going 10-of-16 from deep. The shooting didn't slow in the third, as the Cavaliers made five more threes to take an 81-77 lead.
The Hawks did their best to hang, even briefly taking a lead in the fourth, but the Cavaliers once again proved too strong. Irving and James controlled the offense as the Cavaliers built up a five-point lead, but Dennis Schroder led a 6-0 Hawks run to give the Hawks a 97-96 lead with 1:31 to play. LeBron James put the Cavaliers up with 1:16 left and Tristan Thompson came up with a huge block on the next possession before James added one more jumper to give the Cavaliers a three-point lead.
Schroder made it a one-point game on the next possession. James missed a three on the next trip down the court, but forced a jump ball with Schroder with 2.8 seconds left and Cleveland held on for the 100-99 win.
Here are three things we learned from the Cavaliers' Game 4 win:
Three ball for life
The Cleveland Cavaliers are pretty good at this shooting thing. This, their three-point shooting in each game of the series, just isn't fair:
Game 1: 15-for-31
Game 2: 25-for-45
Game 3: 21-for-39
Game 4: 16-for-37
They set NBA records for most makes in a playoff game and most in a four-game series. For NBA purists who still think an jump shooting team can't win a title -- they might want to look at last year's champs and realize the Cavaliers are taking it to another level.
Different year, same result for the Hawks
After being swept by the Cavaliers in last year's Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks seemed poised to make things interesting this year. But after losing a winnable Game 1, the Cavaliers caught fire and never looked back. Last season, the Hawks came in with a vaunted offense that led the team to 60 regular season wins. This year, they rode their spectacular defense to the No. 4 seed in the East with a great post All-Star Game stretch. But the Cavaliers and their hot shooting made a mockery of the Hawks defense. Atlanta's defensive rating (points given up per 100 possessions) plummeted to 122.4 through the first three games against the Cavaliers -- it was 98.8 in the regular season. Cleveland tore apart the Hawks, slicing through the defense to get a lot of open looks from deep. The Hawks offense showed up in Game 3 and 4, but the Cavaliers were too overpowering for the second year in a row.
The Cavaliers road to the NBA Finals isn't getting any tougher
As if the Cavaliers weren't already heavy favorites to take the Eastern Conference, the injury news that came out of Toronto and Miami on Sunday made their road to the finals look even easier. The Heat announced that Hassan Whiteside sprained his MCL and is day-to-day, and the Raptors announced that Jonas Valanciunas would miss the rest of the Raptors-Heat series with an ankle sprain. The Cavaliers are 8-0 in the playoffs, and it's looking like a very real possibility that they could be undefeated at the start of the NBA Finals.
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