Unstoppable 'Lebronto'

Cleveland forward LeBron James driving against Toronto forward O.G. Anunoby in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series at Quicken Loans Arena on Monday. The Cavaliers swept the series 4-0 to reach the Conference Finals, where they will f
Cleveland forward LeBron James driving against Toronto forward O.G. Anunoby in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series at Quicken Loans Arena on Monday. The Cavaliers swept the series 4-0 to reach the Conference Finals, where they will face Boston or Philadelphia.PHOTO: REUTERS

James leads Cavaliers to 4-0 series sweep over Raptors and a place in East Finals

CLEVELAND (Ohio) • 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.

That is how outlandish expectations have become for the Cleveland star, who totally humiliated the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Eastern Conference top seeds Raptors on their home court that the term "LeBronto" was coined in their semi-final series.

As he led the Cavaliers to a 10th straight play-off triumph over Toronto and eliminated them for the third straight season, he even made high-arching fade-away jumpers from mid-range look cool as he used DeMar DeRozan's signature shot to give the Raptors guard a taste of his own medicine.

But, in their victory at Quicken Loans Arena, James' often-underwhelming supporting cast provided nearly as many first-half highlights as their undisputed leader.

Kevin Love, never known for his defensive tenacity, was a force around the basket. J.R. Smith poured in 12 first-quarter points and Kyle Korver did stellar work beyond the perimeter, going three-for-three from three-point range.

James scored just two points in the first quarter and 10 in the half.

But even his most frequent detractor, commentator Skip Bayless, seemed to understand that taking things easy for a little while and letting the other Cavs do the heavy lifting made sense for the 33-year-old.

James was never going to take the whole game off. In the second half, he reasserted himself as the centre of the Cavs' universe and slammed the door on the Raptors, extending his own record to 12 career sweeps in best-of-seven series.

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    Career sweeps Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James has in best-of-seven series

Jonas Valanciunas, with a team-best 18 points, paced the Raptors, who became just the third top seeds to be swept in a series before the Conference Finals stage.

The quick dismissal earned the Cavs a minimum of five days' rest, which could stretch to eight depending on how the Boston-Philadelphia series plays out.

Also on Monday, T.J. McConnell and Dario Saric combined for 44 points to give the 76ers a lifeline with their 103-92 win over the Celtics at Wells Fargo Centre.

The Celtics could have clinched a 4-0 sweep but instead the Sixers' win ensured there will be a Game 5 at TD Garden today (tomorrow morning, Singapore time).

"We're about to get some rest," James said in an on-court interview broadcast with TNT. "I'm definitely about to get some rest."

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue felt James was an unmovable object for the opposition.

"They happened to run into LeBron," he said of the Raptors. "They haven't lost to any other team the past three years but us."

Toronto coach Dwane Casey was resigned in his post-game interview, calling James "one of the greatest ever" and "a match-up nightmare for anybody".

Cleveland appeared to be running on fumes entering the Raptors series, having been taken to seven games by the Indiana Pacers.

But they seemed to get stronger leading into what will be James' eighth straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The question, of course, is whether any of his heroics will ultimately matter.

For now, James will rest and wait to see how things pan out.

After proving that Toronto's line-up was no match for him, he will be eager to prove the same is true for the other teams that appear so much better on paper.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Unstoppable 'Lebronto''. Print Edition | Subscribe