Key points to another Cleveland Cavaliers sweep


The Cavaliers have LeBron James. All conversations about how Cleveland wins a game or series should start and end there. Countless writers on countless sites will tell you about how incredible LeBron James has been this postseason, and they're right, but you already know about it.

You know he's averaging 34 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1.5 blocks, and is shooting 47% on threes. You know he's been every bit as dominant as those numbers suggest. You know he's making the "is this guy the best player ever?" conversation a bit louder. You know he's so good that he inexplicably went 3-3 from the field in game three with his left hand. The superlatives almost never end, and that's the way it should be.

Even so, he didn't win all four games against Toronto by himself. 

I wrote before the playoffs started that Kevin Love would be an enormous factor in how the Cavaliers fared in the postseason. The Cavs played such a ridiculous second-round series that he (temporarily) proved me wrong. Love only averaged 12 points and 8.5 rebounds in the Toronto sweep, thanks largely to him averaging fewer than 30 minutes per night.

The reason Love played fewer minutes than normal is simple: The Cavs bench was phenomenal in the Toronto series. Kyle Korver became a terrifying player in the NBA for two stretches in the final two games of the series. He scored 16 (!!) in the second quarter of game four after scoring nine points in a 90 second stretch of game three.

There's something transcendent about a Kyle Korver three-pointer. When LeBron/Kyrie/Love/Frye hit a three, it's exciting. Before Kyle Korver even starts his shooting motion, you start to lose your mind. You see him either coming around a screen or waiting in the corner with his hands ready and you get excited. He wants the ball. He wants the shot. As soon as he gets the ball, it's inevitable that the shot will go in, regardless of statistics. As he starts that lightning-quick release, the tension builds. It's gotta go in. There's no way his shot can doink off front-rim and future articles will be written about how rarely he missed to either side. He cannot miss this particular shot. As the ball flies through the air (did you miss the release? I told you it's fast), your arms go up in anticipation. The announcing team prepares for the inevitable - voices rising in anticipation. Teammates relax their shoulders as the ball is halfway home. The Cavaliers bench is on their feet. Defenders already begin moping, regardless of how well they defended the shot. If he has an inch, they know that was too much space to give Korver.

The shot goes in. It always does. Business as usual.

Korver wasn't alone, of course. How about Iman Shumpert? He popped into game one and cooly put down five points, four rebounds, and three assists off the bench. He then followed that up with 14 points and six rebounds in game two. Elsewhere in game two, Kyrie was 6-19 from the field, but Channing Frye went 5-7 on threes in 17 minutes. Frye added ten more points in game four to close out the series.

These guys were good on defense, too. Part of this was Korver's shooting, but Kyle ended up as a +12 in game four while Tristan Thompson ended as a -12. The Cavs were simply able to flow better on offense with shooters out there and they swarmed on defense. Korver had three blocks in about 50 minutes in the final two games, and if you listened to it on the radio, it sounded like he played even better than that.

You can place the credit wherever you want - the fact of the series is that Toronto shot just 30% on three-pointers and the Cavaliers held their offense completely in check. The four-game average score was Cleveland 116, Toronto 101. It doesn't matter who you're playing, 101 points should not win you a playoff game. In fact, scoring 101 points against the Cavaliers would result in a 0-8 record thus far in the playoffs.

It wasn't just Korver, it wasn't just James, and it wasn't just Irving getting hot down the stretch in game four. It wasn't that Lowry was injured, it wasn't that DeRozan struggled, and it wasn't that Norman Powell missed his threes.

The Cavaliers are just a better team than the Raptors. Take one more look at the series stats on Basketball-Reference. Look at the Cavs' individual shooting percentages. That's it.

On to the conference finals.

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