CLEVELAND - LeBron James said he felt like critics were "burying my teammates alive" in the first round of the National Basketball Association playoffs, but after the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Toronto Raptors with a 128-93 Game 4 win Monday to reach the Eastern Conference finals, he and the so-called "Other Cavaliers" got the last laugh.
James finished with 29 points, 11 assists and spent some of the final 7 minutes, 38 seconds dancing near the bench during Cleveland's 10th straight playoff win over Toronto, who changed their system, their roster and their approach, but still could not beat the game's best player.
In the Cavs' seven-game series win over the Indiana Pacers in the first round, James averaged 34.4 points per game, and Cleveland's next-highest scorer was Kevin Love at 11.4 points per game. Boston has endured the pain and heartache of losing their superstars very well and they only need one more win to make it to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals against the same team as previous year.
James might have less help this year and Boston may be performing even better, but no one has been able to stop the King in a long time.
Turns out, the Raptors still were not good enough.
It's not that Love or Korver or J.R. Smith can't make a big shot in a tough spot when called upon, it's that James relishes the responsibility of being the one to take it - or defer if the situation demands.
There will be no historic comeback.
DeRozan was quiet in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and was missing in action when the series turned to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4.
There isn't much to say about James in this series. It's not like we didn't want to [win]. And I think anybody who played against him can see that but at some point, that's gonna come down.
"We had nothing to lose".
Cleveland are back in the finals again despite a turbulent regular season and a bumpy start to the playoffs after the Pacers pushed the Cavs to the brink of elimination.
Toronto enters a third offseason in a row in which they have to answer the same main question, and it will only get harder for them to preach patience with a core group that has an apparent ceiling in the postseason.
All five Cleveland starters scored in double figures and Love continued his spring rebirth. "If the game is tied or the game is on the line, we got a great person to go to down the stretch".
Lue and James said they never saw the SNL skit, but clearly, confidence in Cavs camp is mighty high these days after things seemed pretty shaky less than two weeks ago when Cleveland trailed in 2-1.