The Cleveland Cavaliers took care of business on Sunday, earning a 101-93 win over the Boston Celtics to finish off a four-game sweep in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series. They sustained some costly damage in the process, though, losing two starters — one to injury , the other to ejection — during the course of a 48-minute slugfest that could have the Cavs entering Round 2 wounded and short-handed. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] LeBron James scored 27 points on 10-for-24 shooting, 10 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block — his NBA record 33rd career playoff game with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists — in a game-high 46-plus minutes to lead the way. Kyrie Irving did his part, too, capping off his first career playoff series with 24 points on 8-for-19 shooting, 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block in 43 minutes to propel Cleveland into a second-round matchup with the winner of the series between the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks. Chicago holds a 3-1 lead in that series, with Milwaukee staying alive Saturday thanks to a buzzer-beating layup by guard Jerryd Bayless. Game 5 will take place Monday night in Chicago. The Cavs came out aggressive, looking to impose their will on Boston on the interior and the boards, with center Timofey Mozgov once again getting off to a hot start as Celtics defender Tyler Zeller rotated off him to help on penetration by James or Irving. With Mozgov locked in at the rim and J.R. Smith hitting a couple of early 3-pointers, the Cavs held a 19-10 lead midway through the opening quarter. The sunny start soon turned dark, though, as power forward Kevin Love suffered a shoulder injury while battling Celtics center Kelly Olynyk on this scramble for a rebound: Love would not return, limiting him to just under 5 1/2 minutes of floor time after his star turn in Game 3 . With Love unavailable, Cavs head coach David Blatt turned first to instant-energy reserve power forward Tristan Thompson, who had done tons of damage on the offensive glass against the Celtics' bigs over the previous three games. Blatt later made a somewhat unexpected addition to his frontcourt rotation, dusting off little-used veteran big man Kendrick Perkins ... who promptly made his presence felt, essentially body-blocking and shoving Celtics defender Jae Crowder (who had gotten extra physical with multiple Cavs during this series, including delivering a shot to Iman Shumpert on the previous trip up the floor) to the ground in the course of "setting a pick" for LeBron: Perkins received a flagrant foul-1 for his screen and shove, but was allowed to remain in the game; he and Crowder also received technical fouls on the play. The fracas got the TD Garden crowd plenty amped up, but didn't spark to the C's to greater on-court success. The combination of James and Irving initiating off the bounce , swarming Cavs defense and Boston missing some makeable looks — including all eight 3-point attempts in the first half — put the Celtics in a 21-point hole at halftime. The physicality only escalated after halftime, as Smith responded to Crowder shoving him in the lane by swinging his right fist backward, clocking Crowder on the side of the face and sending him crumpling to the ground: Smith received a flagrant foul-2 and an automatic ejection for blasting Crowder in the face. After the league office reviews the tape of the play, it seems all but certain that Smith will miss at least part of the Cavs' next series. As he fell to the floor, Crowder's left leg got caught underneath him, leading him to reach for it in pain as he collected himself on the deck. He'd be helped off the floor and back to the locker room, and would not return, with the Celtics saying he'd suffered a left knee sprain during the fall. Smith's ejection seemed to stall the Cavaliers, who shot a dismal 4-for-20 in the third quarter en route to just 13 points, by far their lowest single-quarter point total of the series. Crowder's exit, on the other hand, seemed to fuel the Celtics, who saw lead scorer Isaiah Thomas find some life get on track with an 11-point frame after missing his first 10 shots from the field. A Jared Sullinger tip-in of a missed layup by Marcus Smart drew Boston within nine heading into the fourth quarter, giving Celtics fans hope for one last push that could extend the series. It wouldn't come, though. As was the case in Game 2 , James and Irving took over for Cleveland in the fourth quarter, each scoring 10 points in the final frame. The Cavs also got a major boost from Shumpert, who added to the strong work he'd provided defensively and on the glass by attacking the basket, getting to the line six times and scoring eight of his 15 points (to go with 10 boards, three blocks and two steals) in the final 12 minutes. The Celtics mounted a valiant effort. The three-headed backcourt monster of Thomas, Bradley and Smart teaming with Sullinger to score 28 of Boston's 32 fourth-quarter points, doing their level best to stave off elimination. Thomas hit a layup with 37 seconds left cut the deficit to eight, then interfered with James' inbounds pass while he stood out-of-bounds, which the refs missed badly, to create a Bradley steal that led to a Cleveland foul and a pair of free throws that made it a two-possession game. The final-minute stand came up short, though, as an after-timeout 3-point look that Boston head coach Brad Stevens dialed up for little-used reserve Luigi Datome came up short, with Irving coming away with the rebound and heading to the line for two more foul shots to put the game out of reach. In most circumstances, a four-game first-round sweep leaves the victors elated and the vanquished deflated. In this case, though, those roles might be reversed. The Celtics come out of the defeat with plenty of optimism for the future, having taken real steps forward in the second half of the season, Stevens establishing himself as one of the league's brightest young coaching stars, and plenty of options — as many as five first-round picks in the next two drafts , young players on movable deals and as much as $30 million in cap space this summer — available for general manager Danny Ainge as he looks to pursue the top-flight talent that Boston will need to kick its rebuild into high gear. While Stevens and company would've preferred to win, of course, nobody in Boston's coming away from this first-round exit feeling despair about the future. On Cleveland's side, though, Game 4 sure seems like a very costly victory. Love's status for the remainder of the postseason isn't yet clear, but if the shoulder injury he suffered limits his impact or sidelines him entirely, it'll leave the Cavaliers without a major weapon and a key piece of their offense as they face off against the stiffer competition ahead. If Smith is indeed suspended for at least one game of the second round, Blatt might have to replace two members of the starting lineup that's ranked as one of the NBA's very best units since coming together in mid-January against (in all likelihood) a Bulls side that's got frontcourt depth, plenty of experience, defensive acumen and a livelier-than-many-expected version of Derrick Rose. That's hardly an ideal situation for LeBron and company. They'll have to take solace in the fact that, after taking care of their business quickly, they'll have some time to rest up and game-plan for whatever comes next. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was ejected from Sunday's Game 4 against the Boston Celtics after hitting the Celtics' Jae Crowder in the face early in the third quarter. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] With Cleveland holding a 21-point lead coming out of intermission, Boston's Brandon Bass attempted to work in the post against the defense of the Cavs' Tristan Thompson. As Bass backed Thompson down, Crowder barreled down the paint, looking to establish rebounding position. He crashed into Smith, who looked to anchor down and box out. Crowder responding by leaning on Smith's shoulder blades with his right forearm. Smith responded by rearing back and swinging his right arm backward, clocking Crowder right on the jaw. Crowder crumpled to the floor following the punch, with his left knee trapped underneath him; as he lay on the hardwood, he reached for his left leg in pain. After reviewing the play, the referees deeming Smith's swing to constitute "unnecessary and excessive" contact, meriting a flagrant foul-2 and an automatic ejection. He finished with eight points on 3-for-8 shooting and two steals. After clearing the cobwebs, Crowder was helped to the locker room by teammates and trainers, jawing with the Cavaliers bench as he made his way off the court. He would be diagnosed with a left knee sprain and ruled out of the game. Crowder finished with seven points on 2-for-4 shooting, three rebounds and one assist in his first start of the series, taking the place of guard Marcus Smart as Boston head coach Brad Stevens looked to open the game with a bigger, stronger defensive option on LeBron James. Smith's shot on Crowder comes two years to the day after he was ejected from Game 3 of the New York Knicks' 2013 playoff series with the Celtics after swinging an elbow into the jaw of then-Celtic Jason Terry. Smith received a one-game suspension for that blow, and performed miserably for the Knicks after his suspension . Whether similar discipline — and similar subsequent struggles — lie in Smith's future remain to be seen. The square-off with Smith represented the second skirmish of the day for Crowder, Boston's feistiest defender and leading physical presence. Late in the second quarter, after Crowder gave Cavs swingman Iman Shumpert a shot going up the court on the previous play, he found himself on the receiving end of a stiff and very illegal screen from sparingly used Cleveland center — and former Celtics enforcer — Kendrick Perkins: Under the guise of setting a pick for James, Perkins basically just body-blocked/shoved Crowder to the ground. When Crowder got up and let Perkins know he didn't appreciate it, Perk responded by getting his hands up in Crowder's face; it wasn't quite a punch, but it certainly could have been construed as one, given the clear intent to snuff Crowder and incite further physicality. Instead, relatively little came of the scuffle: Explanation (1/3): 1:44/Q2: Following offensive foul on Perkins, an altercation ensued... — NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) April 26, 2015 Explanation (2/3): 1:44/Q2: During the review the offensive foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1 because Perkins unnecessarily pushed Crowder. — NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) April 26, 2015 Explanation (3/3): 1:44/Q2: During the review, Crowder and Perkins were also assessed dead-ball technical fouls. — NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) April 26, 2015 Perkins was allowed to stay in the game and Crowder missed both of his flagrant free throws. The Smith-Crowder and Perkins-Crowder altercations, and the animus that might have precipitated them, came after Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love was ruled out for the game following a left shoulder injury suffered after Celtics center Kelly Olynyk locked onto Love's arm during a first-quarter scramble for a rebound. An already pitched atmosphere in Boston, as the Celtics look to stave off elimination and Cleveland attempts to finish off the sweep, became even more fevered after that, resulting in some ugly incidents and even uglier basketball. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love played only five minutes and 22 seconds of Game 4 of his team's first-round playoff series with the Boston Celtics on Sunday, leaving the contest after injuring his shoulder in a battle for a loose ball with Boston's Kelly Olynyk: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] With just under 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Love and Olynyk were scrapping for rebounding position after a missed 3-pointer by Boston's Jae Crowder. Olynyk latched onto Love's left arm as they ran away from the basket; after a couple of seconds of tangling, Love yelped in pain and instantly grabbed for his left shoulder. The referees whistled Olynyk for a loose-ball foul and Love sprinted straight off the court, back to the Cavaliers locker room. Soon after Love exited the game, ABC's Heather Cox reported that the Cavaliers said he will not return to action. Team physician Dr. Richard Parker was examining the arm, which had already been iced and wrapped. At that point, Cleveland was just calling it a "left shoulder injury," pending further examination. After the Cavaliers' 101-93 win to finish off a four-game sweep and eliminate the Celtics, though, the team confirmed that Love had dislocated his left shoulder , and that his status would be updated after "additional examination, imaging and evaluation at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health" following the team's return to Ohio. After the game, the head coaches for both teams downplayed the notion that Olynyk intentionally and maliciously went after after Love's shoulder: Stevens on Love injury: “Can’t imagine there was any negative intent by Kelly, b/c that’s not kind of person he is, & you hope Love is OK." — Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) April 26, 2015 Blatt on Love injury: “I hope it wasn’t a play on purpose. I don’t think it’s in the character of Olynyk to do that. I hope not." — Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) April 26, 2015 Love, however, made it clear that he felt Olynyk meant to do the dirty work during a postgame chat with reporters during which he had his left arm in a sling : Kevin Love: "I thought it was a bush-league play ... I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose" — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 26, 2015 More Kevin Love: "That's just not a basketball play ... The league will take a look at it and it better be swift and just" — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 26, 2015 It's awful tough to ascribe intent, but you can certainly understand Love's frustration. It seems clear that Olynyk trapped Love's arm to prevent him from reaching for the basketball, which is something that you see bigs do to one another all the time in the fight for a rebound, but is absolutely the sort of play on which bad things can happen. Whether or not Olynyk meant to hurt Love, he did something that's against the rules specifically because stuff like this can happen when you do it; the starting point might've been different, but the endpoint is that same. Whether or not the league elects to penalize Olynyk for his role in the injury, with his team eliminated, the Celtics center won't miss any more games this season. We can't yet say the same for Love, who averaged 18.3 points, nine rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes per game through his first career playoff contests before leaving early on Sunday, and who — despite a down year in terms of his individual statistics — has been an integral piece of the Cavaliers' top-ranked offense: So far in the playoffs, the Cavs have an offensive efficiency of 118.7 with Love on the court, 94.6 with him on the bench. Absurdly valuable — Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) April 26, 2015 Even with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving there to bolster the offense, with sterner tests looming as the playoffs progress — a likely second-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls, a possible Eastern Conference finals tilt with the Atlanta Hawks, a potential NBA Finals bout with whichever heavyweight emerges from the Western Conference — a diminished Love would be extremely damaging to the Cavaliers' chances of advancing, and his absence could even prove fatal. There'll be an awful lot riding on the results of that MRI and, you'd suspect, a decidedly more somber tone on the Cavs' team charter than finishing off a 4-0 sweep would typically engender. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
|Adrian Wojnarowski||Los Angelesin 7||The 2-3-2 format is such an advantage to the home team. Just don't see a way Kobe doesn't close out in a Game 6 or 7 at Staples. Chance for epic series between these two teams full of great players and great winners.|
|Marc J. Spears||Los Angelesin 7||The Lakers have no one to slow down Rajon Rondo, but Kobe Bryant is playing on a higher level offensively than anyone in the postseason.|
|Johnny Ludden||Los Angelesin 7||For all the injuries he's dealt with, Kobe looks remarkably fresh. He'll need to trust his teammates more than he did in '08, but they'll also give him more of a reason to do so.|
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