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Cavaliers finish off sweep of Raptors

By JOE VARDON • May 8, 2018 at 1:31 AM

CLEVELAND — Eight days ago the Cavaliers avoided the potential start of a total, organizational collapse.

Now they're in the Eastern Conference finals, again.

The Cavs swept the East's best team from the regular season, the Toronto Raptors, by beating them 128-93 Monday in Game 4 at The Q. Cleveland needed to win a Game 7 over Indiana on April 29 to even get to the conference semifinals.

The Cavs not only swept the Raptors out of the semifinals for the second straight year and knocked them out of the playoffs for the third straight season, they also completed the sweep on the same calendar date (May 7).

"Maybe they just got our number," said a defeated DeMar DeRozan. "Things just don't go right for us."

Cleveland needs four more wins against either Boston or Philadelphia in the next round for its fourth straight NBA Finals. Not bad for a team that finished fourth during the regular season.

LeBron James, who was said to be a sure bet to leave as a free agent this summer if the Cavs lost to the Pacers, finished Game 4 with 29 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds on 12-of-19 shooting. He extended his NBA record to 12 consecutive playoff games of leading his team in points and assists.

This will be James' eighth straight appearance in the Eastern finals and 10th overall.

"To be able to put ourselves in position where we can represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals, that's all you can ask for," James said. "So we're excited about being part of the Eastern Conference finals once again and having the opportunity to compete for a championship. That is what our goal is."

James scored 15 in the third quarter, when the Cavs took a 16-point lead and made it 100-72 by quarter's end. Coach Tyronn Lue put James out there to start the fourth quarter with Cleveland's second unit to make sure the lead stood. He exited for good with 7:38 remaining and the Cavs up 30.

A short night for James — he only played 38 minutes.

Lue, by the way, in three conference semifinal series as head coach, is a perfect 12-0.

"We keep going back talking about the Indiana series, I think it prepared us for this series," Lue said. "I think the physicality, the ball pressure, really helped us going forward into this series. We got to continue to keep getting better, we talked about that just throughout the playoffs."

The Cavs' Kevin Love had his third consecutive strong game with 23 points and six rebounds. Kyle Korver added 16 points including four 3s. JR Smith scored all 15 of his points in the first half on 6-of-6 shooting. George Hill contributed 12 points.

DeRozan completed his total stinker of a series by earning an ejection with 23.6 seconds left in the third quarter for whacking Jordan Clarkson in the head on Clarkson's breakaway layup. DeRozan, who hit all head, was slapped with a flagrant-two foul — an automatic shower.

DeRozan, an All-Star, finished the game with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. He was 3-of-12 for eight points in Game 3, and was so bad coach Dwane Casey wouldn't play him in the fourth quarter when his team came back from 14 points down and nearly won.

The Raptors were led in scoring by Jonas Valanciunas, who came off the bench for the first time this series and finished with 18 points.

Kyle Lowry, Toronto's other All-Star, went quietly with five points (he did contribute 10 assists) and shot 2-of-7.

The Cavs shot .595 from the field (tying a franchise playoff record) and made 12 3s. The Raptors were 4-of-15 from 3-point range.

"I think defensively in these 11 games, we've been very, very, very good," James said. "Offensively we're starting to pick up. We're starting to get a rhythm, we're starting to know what we're capable of offensively and what we can become."

Casey used his third different starting lineup in four games, going with C.J. Miles and Serge Ibaka over Fred VanVleet and Valanciunas from Game 3.

Lue's adjustment: Introducing Cedi Osman into the series. The rookie Osman subbed in during the first quarter, taking the rotation spot of Rodney Hood — who had scored just two points through three games.

Hard to really tell the difference in a blowout, but Osman contributed five points, two rebounds and two assists. Hood was the only Cleveland player in uniform not to see the floor.

The Cavs opened the game shooting 10-of-12 and led by as many as 10 in the first quarter. Smith, who was held scoreless in Game 3, scored 12 in the first quarter.

James didn't even really join the party in the second quarter, notching just two points in the first. By halftime he was up to 10 points, six boards and seven assists, and the Cavs led 63-47. He was only Cleveland's fourth-leading scorer: Smith and Korver combined for 28 points and 6-of-6 shooting on 3s in the first half.

The Cavs are now 10-of-10 in Game 4s after taking a 3-0 lead in a playoff series. They've also beaten the Raptors in 10 straight playoff games and in 15 of the last 17, counting the regular season.

NEXT: The Eastern Conference finals, date and opponent to be determined.

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