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LeBron James eviscerates the Celtics to reach his seventh straight NBA Finals

LeBron James eviscerates the Celtics to reach his seventh straight NBA Finals

BOSTON — If the Boston Celtics were holding any hope from six quarters of surprisingly competitive play in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers doused it early in Game 5, riding their three All-Stars to a third straight blowout victory on the Garden floor.

Cavs superstar LeBron James scored a game-high 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting in a dominating 135-102 victory that will send him to a seventh straight NBA Finals appearance. The four-time NBA MVP added eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block before sitting the entire fourth quarter, leaving no doubt he had recovered from a stomach bug that left him lethargic earlier in the series.

Star point guard Kyrie Irving added 24 points and seven assists, while Kevin Love collected 15 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists. Even former All-Star Deron Williams got in on the action, scoring 14 points off the Cleveland bench. The Cavaliers have won 12 of their 13 playoff games entering the Finals, where, for the third straight year, they will take on the Golden State Warriors, who enter the championship round a perfect 12-0.

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The Celtics exceeded all expectations in capturing the East’s No. 1 seed, reaching the conference finals and even winning one game against the Cavs without injured All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points, and in a sign of how ugly the game got in the second half, Gerald Green was the team’s next-highest scorer with 14 in garbage time. On this night, the only consolation prize was a “Let’s Go Celtics” chant from the hometown crowd with their team trailing by 32 late in the fourth quarter. (Well, that and the knowledge that, on June 22, the Celtics will pick first in the 2017 NBA draft.)

It started as a slow drip. Love scored Cleveland’s first eight points to give the Cavs a five-point cushion less than two minutes into the game. When J.R. Smith leaked out for a transition dunk that sprung the lead to 15-4 two minutes later, Celtics coach Brad Stevens burned his first timeout. Boston responded with a turnover and defensive three seconds violation, and the deluge was on.

With four minutes left in the first quarter, Boston’s Jonas Jerebko passed the ball right to James. By the time he was done complaining to rookie teammate Jaylen Brown about not cutting correctly, LeBron had dunked on the other end, Cleveland led 28-12, and Stevens called another timeout.

Back-to-back Kyle Korver 3-pointers and a nifty Irving layup plus the foul pushed Cleveland’s lead to 20. This time, it was Cavs coach Tyronn Lue calling the timeout — to give his team a breather after a breakneck start, and to let a quiet TD Garden crowd wallow in the memories of blowout defeats suffered in Games 1 and 2.

The Celtics had Terry Rozier’s playmaking in the final few minutes of the first quarter to thank for only being down 16. A Jae Crowder three-point play to start the second trimmed the lead to 13, but just when it seemed like the Celtics might’ve plugged the leak, they started taking on water again.

James got to the line on three straight possessions — the last of which caused a mutiny. Referee Ken Mauer whistled Green for a block on what the Celtics vet felt was a clean strip. Green earned a technical for his response, which was accompanied by loud “bulls***” chants from the Garden crowd. The ensuing free throws bumped the Cavs lead back above 20.

LeBron had 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block by halftime. Cleveland entered the break with a franchise-playoff-record 75 points, and the Cavaliers might as well have begun making arrangements for next week’s trip to Oakland between quarters.

The Garden seats started to empty when Irving replicated his Game 4 heroics early in the third quarter. The four-time All-Star point guard scored Cleveland’s first 11 points of the second half, demonstrating an array of ball-handling and shotmaking that seemed exceptional even for Kyrie.

“Kyrie just goes nuts and ends us,” said Stevens. “That’s basically what happened.”

Finally, LeBron opened the floodgates. Six straight points never seemed easier than his two layups and cutting dunk midway through the third, and when a Love 3-pointer sent Cleveland’s lead to 30, James poured a little more history on for good measure. His 27-footer with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter gave him 29 points on the night and 5,989 for his career — two more than Michael Jordan — and the NBA had a new all-time leading playoff scorer.

James dropped two more 3s on the Celtics before the end of the quarter, and the Cavs started the fourth with a lineup of Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. Game over. Series over. LeBron and the Cavs are headed to the Finals. Again.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Source: www.yahoo.com

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