Jim Ingraham: Cavaliers making it OK to dream again

LeBron and the Cavs are heading back to the ECF.

For LeBron James, who has crossed the 40-point mark four times, hit two triple-doubles and two buzzer-beating winners this post-season, 29 points in Monday's series-sweeping 128-93 win over Toronto were hardly the stuff of highlight reels.

Toronto's miserable night saw DeMar DeRozan ejected in the fourth quarter while Kyle Lowry was restricted to just five points.

Toronto had entered the playoffs as the number one seed from the Eastern Conference, and were desperate to avoid a third straight series defeat to James and the Cavs after losses in 2016 and 2017. If you think Lue is in over his head, you might believe that he's making things up as he goes. For whatever reason, we got the unlucky draw every year of going against him. "We had opportunity after opportunity after opportunity".

Tristan Thompson registered 14 points and 12 rebounds, while J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver scored 20 and 19 points respectively in Game One.

Now, the sweep of the Raptors afford James and the Cavs a much-needed break. Cleveland is 10-0 in a Game 4 with a 3-0 series lead-all with James. To be able to put ourselves in position where we can represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals, that's all you can ask for. When compared to most teams, in terms of chemistry, this team is at its half-season mark, not at a playoff level.

"It was a great series for us", James said in a postgame television interview on TNT.

For the Raptors, there's nothing positive to be taken from this defeat.

Kevin Love, who struggled in a seven-game scrap with in in the first round, had another solid game with 23 points. That's seven games in 13 days, or as The Athletic's Jason Lloyd put it, 283 minutes, nearly five hours, of basketball for James.

Smith, George Hill and Jeff Green combined for 42 points in Game Two, while in Game Four Korver went four-out-of-five from long range, while Smith made all his first five shots in the first quarter. They have improved the last few years, but the same roadblock is always at the end of their road, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Compared to the Toronto Raptors, whose most-used lineup in the playoffs1 logged 801 minutes together in the regular season, Cleveland looks like it's experimenting on the fly.

After doing most of the heavy lifting all on his own last series against the Indiana Pacers, James received help this time around. But he is clearly starting to come around on a team that as recently as the middle of first round looked like it was incapable of helping him this postseason. Didn't lose three straight during the regular season, then lost four in a row to the Cavs.

The Cavs are also thrilled with themselves defensively, slapping fives over DeMar DeRozan's struggles in the series and due to their success in keeping anyone - outside of Jonas Valanciunas - from playing with consistency on offense.

"Defensively we're playing pretty good", Lue said.

The 10-footer came just seconds after Toronto had tied it 103-103 on OG Anunoby's three-pointer with eight seconds on the clock. "So for me it was just more than anything it was just me being myself".

"For me it was championship or bust, that's what I feel", Lowry said.

  • Julie Sanders