Cavs keep perfect play-off streak

Kyrie Irving shoots from under the basket for two of his game-high 26 points to help the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 10th straight win this NBA post-season.
Kyrie Irving shoots from under the basket for two of his game-high 26 points to help the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 10th straight win this NBA post-season.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Irving and Love chip in to grant James free rein at Raptors; coach Lue is first to 10 wins

WASHINGTON • With LeBron James producing another overpowering performance, the Cleveland Cavaliers routed the Toronto Raptors 108-89 on Thursday, stretching their play-off record to 10-0 and moving closer to a National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals return.

James scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and passed out 11 assists as the Cavaliers, who swept through the first two play-off rounds, seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals.

"We're just a well-balanced, (well-)oiled machine," he said. "You have to do multiple things depending on how the series and the games go and we've been able to do that."

Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 26 points and Kevin Love added 19 for Cleveland, whose run is one shy of the NBA record play-off start of 11-0 achieved by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989 and 2001.

The Cavaliers are two wins from facing the winner of the Western Conference Finals, either Oklahoma City or defending NBA champions Golden State, in the NBA Finals that begin on June 2.

Cleveland lost to Golden State in last year's NBA Finals, but Love was out with an injury and Irving went down with an injury in Game 1.

"We just do a great job of having each other's backs," said Irving.

"We missed our chance last year and we want to make the most of this time."

The Cavaliers have led Toronto by 10 or more points throughout the second half in both games and Cleveland's Tyronn Lue, the first NBA coach to win his first 10 play-off games, credits Irving and Love for helping ease the load on James.

"When Kevin and Kyrie are playing at a high level, it opens the floor for LeBron. He can take a game over," Lue said.

"The better the team perform, the easier it is on him."

The play-off victory was Cleveland's 17th in a row over foes from the same conference, the longest such NBA streak since 1970-71.

"I don't think it feels like a streak," James said. "We won one game. How do we get better the next game? We haven't overlooked any steps. That's why we're in the position we are. We've enjoyed the process."

James, seeking a sixth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals after four years with Miami and last year, is hitting 18-of-26 from the field, dominating Toronto inside.

"Great team-mates are getting me open," he said. "I'm trying to be aggressive, see what the defence is giving me. Everyone is feeding off one another."

He had his 15th career triple double and passed Shaquille O'Neal to reach fourth on the NBA career play-off scoring list.

The Cavaliers closed the second quarter with a 16-2 run to seize a 62-48 half-time edge.

James had 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the first half.

"All great players are going to be playing at that level at this time of the year," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "He's not doing anything we didn't expect."

The Raptors, led by DeMar DeRozan's 22 points, suffered their first back-to-back losses of the play-offs.

Kyle Lowry, who scored 43 against the Cavaliers in a regular-season game, had only 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting. But the point guard vowed to bounce back.

"I'll find ways," he said. "I know I can be more effective and I will be more effective on Saturday.

"Their defence is active and rotating but I've been missing shots I won't be missing anymore."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Cavs keep perfect play-off streak'. Print Edition | Subscribe