Post Up: Finals, Finally

by May 27, 2015

Cavaliers 118, Hawks 88 (Cleveland wins series, 4-0)

Eight years after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance, LeBron James has returned home and done so again. This time—averaging an Oscar Robertson-esque 30.3 points, 11 rebounds and 9.3 assists against the Atlanta Hawks in the ECF—he may have also turned in the best postseason series of his career along the way. In Game 4, James and the Cavaliers got out to a big lead early and never looked back, making short work of the No. 1-seeded Hawks by a final score of 118-88.

Playing without Kevin Love, and a banged up Kyrie Irving who missed two of the four games against Atlanta, there was simply nothing the Hawks could do throughout the series to slow down James. He went to the bench for good in Game 4 at the start of the fourth quarter with his team up 25 after totaling 23, 9 and 7 in only 29 minutes. He’s played like the best player on the planet throughout the Playoffs and proved to be the single biggest reason the Cavaliers will now compete for an NBA Championship. Post-game, King James looked back on the journey that began with his commitment to Cleveland in mid-July.

“It’s very emotional to be back in this city,” James said after the game. “When I made my decision to come back here, I knew what I wanted to do and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, and it was going to be the toughest task for me to try to take this team back to the Finals.

“I had to step up my leadership and be very patient, which I’m not a very patient guy but I knew I had to work on that. To be able to sit here, see us at 19-20, me out two weeks while my team struggled. They wanted Coach Blatt fired, they said we needed another point guard—will LeBron and Kyrie be able to play together. So many storylines were happening at that time. So for us to sit here today, being able to represent this city in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s very special.”

After being a game-time decision leading up to Game 4, Kyrie started and played effectively through 21 minutes of work. While noticeably missing his patented burst, Irving still connected on 6-of-11 shots from the field to finish with 16 points and 5 assists. By eliminating the Hawks in four games, the hope in Cleveland is that Irving will now be able to rest his injured knee in time for the Finals, which begin on June 4.

“Kyrie did fabulously,” Coach Blatt said postgame. “He played beautifully, moved well, he was impactful. But it was a lot bigger than that. The fact that he came back to play, the fact that he wanted so badly to be a part of us winning this series and being able move forward. He wanted so much to be with his guys and contribute.

“It was good for the guys, it was good to see Ky out there. Now, the fact that we won tonight, that was one of the reasons we wanted him back because we wanted this break to let the guys heal and come fresh for the Finals. So he really lifted us.”

Tristan Thompson lifted the Cavaliers as well, by capping off a monster series in which he averaged a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. JR Smith came off the bench to throw in 18 and Matthew Dellavedova finished with 10 as the hometown crowd applauded his overall effort by chanting his name multiple times throughout the contest.

Meanwhile, Jeff Teague wrapped up an impressive season by pacing the Hawks in Game 4 with 17 points. Paul Millsap totaled 16 points and 10 rebounds while Kent Bazemore chipped in 12.

The Cavs now have eight days of rest before the Finals, against either Golden State or Houston.

Photo via Getty Images