While most NBA experts predicted the top seeded Cleveland Cavaliers would sweep the eighth seeded Detroit Pistons in their best of seven Eastern Conference first round playoff series, I’ll bet most people didn’t expect the Pistons to give the Cavaliers the battle that they did all the way to final buzzer on Sunday night. The Cavaliers capped off a clean sweep for Cleveland professional sports teams in the Motor City this weekend with a 100-98 win in game four to take the series four games to none.
LeBron James has now won 17 straight first round playoff series games. Cleveland extends their playoff win streak over Detroit to 12 straight dating back to game three of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Detroit has now lost ten straight playoff games dating back to game five of the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.
The Cavaliers would likely be flying back to Cleveland on Sunday night planning for a game five on Tuesday night if not for the play of Kyrie Irving in this series. Irving for the second game in a row made a clutch three point basket in the final minute. This time the three point shot was from the right wing with 42 seconds remaining to give the Cavaliers a 100-96 lead. Irving also made a momentum changing three pointer to end the third quarter. With the score tied at 78, Irving would beat the third quarter buzzer with a half court heave that went in. Cleveland took an 81-78 lead into the fourth quarter and silenced the sold out Pistons crowd at the Palace.
Irving finished with a game high 31 points and five assists. Irving wasn’t the only Cavalier that was hot shooting the basketball, especially from three point territory. J.R. Smith knocked down five of seven attempts from three point land for his 15 points. Smith’s final three point make gave the Cavaliers a 95-86 lead despite terrific defense by Reggie Jackson on the play.
Jackson had a chance to keep the Pistons season alive, but his desperation three point shot from the top of the key was short thanks to good pressure defense by Irving. Now, Irving and the rest of the wine and gold can enjoy this week off as they wait to see who they will face in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Cavaliers will face the winner of the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics series. The Celtics overtime win on Sunday evening evened up that series at two games a piece.
James recorded a double double with 22 points and eleven rebounds. James shot well from the field at nine of 19, but was only one of six from behind the three point arc. Kevin Love could not get many shots to fall in game four, but still had an impact on the game. Love finished with only eleven points on three of 15 shooting, but grabbed a game high 13 rebounds, four of them on the offensive end. Love was also very aggressive in keeping possessions alive. Late in the fourth quarter, Love was able to prevent Andre Drummond from grabbing a rebound off of a missed shot. Love would then fight off a couple of Pistons defenders to force a jump ball that the Cavaliers would win and retain possession.
“For our team, it doesn’t matter who is the leading scorer or anything. We just want to get wins,” James said. “But the fact that he was in such a great groove, just throughout this whole series, we rode his coattails, we rode (Kevin Love), and I was able to focus on some other things, especially my rebounding, get guys involved — defensively, just try to lock in on my individual matchup.”
The Cavaliers may have lost the rebounding battle 42-41, the key rebounds down the stretch to keep possessions alive by Love and others played a key factor in the Cavaliers recording the series sweep on Sunday night. Cleveland also took ten more shots in the game thanks to those second and third shot opportunities.