BY: Jason M. Sanin
In what many basketball betting experts had tabbed as an evenly matched series, the Cleveland Cavaliers destroyed the Atlanta Hawks. Game Four saw Kyrie Irving return for Cleveland, in a game that secured a sweep for the Cavaliers, an Eastern Conference championship, and a berth in the NBA Finals.
Cleveland seized control of this deciding game early, taking a 12 point lead after just one quarter of play. LeBron James started out by making six of his first ten shots, a stark contrast to his performance in Game Three of the series, in which he missed his first ten shots in a row. As a whole, Cleveland shot over 50% from the field in the first quarter, while the Hawks converted on fewer than half of their shots.
The Cavaliers only extended their lead from there, going into halftime up by 17 points, thanks in large part to the efforts of Kyrie Irving. Irving, who missed games two and three of this series due to injury, played over 20 minutes in this game and provided a spark offensively while allowing backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova to move back into his reserve role, bolstering the team’s depth in the process.
Quarters three and four of this game were merely a coronation of the Cavaliers as they continued to press their advantages across the court, with the Hawks folding under the constant pressure applied by David Blatt’s squad, the pressure that has made them one of the most reliable teams in the eyes of tipsters.
When all was said and done, Cleveland finished the game with six players scoring in double figures, including four starters. That balanced attack made things easy for the Cavaliers, while the Hawks struggled at doing what they’ve done well all year long. Atlanta was second in the NBA during the regular season in three point shooting percentage. With six minutes left in this game, however, they were an abysmal 3-26 from three point range.
Reaching the NBA Finals is a milestone for anyone who manages to accomplish it, but this time it means even more for LeBron James. After leaving the Miami Heat at the end of last season to rejoin his hometown Cavaliers, James expected the process of reaching the Finals once again to take much longer. In addition, this is his fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the Boston Celtics teams of the 1960s, when Bill Russell led them to championship after championship.
Next up for the Cavaliers will be either the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets. With Golden State holding a 3-1 lead in that series, basketball tipsters will rightly expect the Warriors to meet Cleveland in the NBA Finals, which would set up a dream matchup between league MVP Stephen Curry and the best player in the sport in LeBron James. If the Warriors can close out the Western Conference Finals, this year’s NBA Finals may be one of the most entertaining in recent NBA history.