LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers who to defy bad luck of No. 4 seeds in playoffs

NBA


The trail for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to a possible fourth consecutive NBA Finals will begin in opposition to the Indiana Pacers within the first spherical.

After a roller-coaster season that noticed loads of drama and an enormous roster makeover on the commerce deadline, the Cavaliers enter the postseason because the fourth seed within the Japanese Convention and will face top-seeded Toronto within the second spherical if the convention playoffs go in response to seeding.

James has needed to overcome a lot this season, together with his head coach Tyronn Lue lacking 9 video games resulting from well being points.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot,” Lue mentioned. “That’s behind us, there’s no excuse going into the playoffs.”

The Cavaliers might haven’t any excuses coming into the playoffs, however they must do one thing that has been carried out solely as soon as in current historical past in the event that they wish to win the franchise’s second championship.

Since playoff seeding started within the 1983-84 season, solely the 1995 Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, have gained the NBA Finals as a fourth seed or decrease.

Within the Western Convention, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets wanted extra time to settle the eighth spot, with Minnesota surviving with a 112-106 victory. Minnesota’s reward is a first-round sequence in opposition to the NBA’s greatest crew this season — the Rockets. Tom Thibodeau and Jimmy Butler have Minnesota within the postseason for the primary time since 2004.

Second-seeded Golden State will start its title protection in opposition to San Antonio out West, however each groups will possible be with out two of their greatest stars. Steph Curry (knee) will probably be out for the primary spherical, and Kawhi Leonard (quad) has been out since mid-January and has performed in simply 9 video games this season.

Final season’s MVP, Russell Westbrook, will attempt to lead Oklahoma Metropolis previous Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz within the first spherical. For Westbrook, who turned the primary participant to common a triple-double in a number of seasons, that is his first postseason alongside Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Utah, in the meantime, has stunned this season by reaching the postseason with a rookie main the way in which after dropping Gordon Hayward in free company final summer time.

Portland will face New Orleans as Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum crew up in opposition to Pelicans star Anthony Davis. Davis has carried New Orleans into the playoffs after dropping fellow massive man DeMarcus Cousins for the season with an Achilles harm.

Cleveland completed fourth within the East after the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers locked up the third seed with a rout over the Milwaukee Bucks. The Sixers’ rebuilding “Process” takes an enormous step ahead into the postseason as the most well liked crew within the NBA. Philadelphia’s 16-game successful streak is the longest by a crew to complete the common season in NBA historical past, in response to Elias Sports activities Bureau analysis.

With Rookie of the Yr candidate Ben Simmons main the Sixers’ surge, Philadelphia returns to the playoffs for the primary time since 2011-12 and can face the sixth-seeded Miami Warmth. Miami clinched the sixth seed with an extra time victory in Toronto, establishing a first-round sequence between massive man rivals Joel Embiid and Hassan Whiteside, if Embiid is cleared after struggling a face harm late final month.

“We had some crazy games where both teams lost big leads and lost it,” Warmth coach Erik Spoelstra mentioned. “This is what you want. The 3-6 matchup is usually very competitive.”

The East’s top-seeded Raptors will look to attempt to lastly break by and win the convention and advance to the NBA Finals by opening the playoffs in opposition to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards have had a disappointing season however may very well be a difficult opponent for Toronto with John Wall getting wholesome. Will probably be fairly the backcourt battle between Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in opposition to Washington’s Wall and Bradley Beal. DeRozan and Lowry will attempt to avenge a first-round loss to Washington in 2015 when the Wizards swept the Raptors.

“We didn’t get 59 wins for no reason,” DeRozan mentioned of heading into the playoffs, including that this season does really feel completely different for the Raptors.

“The hunger, the push, the pain of the grind all season. The failures from the previous years, kind of carrying that over,” DeRozan mentioned. “Definitely feels different.”

The second-seeded Boston Celtics and head coach Brad Stevens will strive to determine a method to comprise Giannis Antetokounmpo within the first spherical because the Celtics face the seventh-seeded Bucks. The banged up Celtics will probably be with out the injured Kyrie Irving, who’s out for the postseason, however Milwaukee enters going Three-Three in its final six video games, together with Wednesday’s 130-95 loss to the Sixers.

“Doesn’t mean a thing,” Bucks guard Jason Terry mentioned of the injury-ravaged Celtics. “In the event you assume simply because they do not have Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward and Marcus Goodthat you will go in and stroll through a Boston Celtics crew, you are loopy. That is one of many loudest, rowdiest crowds ever [at] playoff time.”

Whereas James had one among his most interesting common seasons statistically, it definitely was a attempting season for him with the crew. James has seen the Cavs win 13 straight video games but in addition lose 11 of 14 this season. The Cavaliers made a flurry of trades earlier than the deadline, parting with the likes of Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye so as to add Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill and Rodney Hood.

“We have the ability to be very dynamic,” James mentioned. “We’re still missing one of our key guys in Rodney Hood. We expect him to be ready for Game 1.”

And Lue missed 9 video games resulting from well being points. However that is James’ time of the season and one other Finals run will start in opposition to the Pacers, who’ve been one of many greatest surprises of the NBA this season. Regardless of buying and selling Paul George within the offseason, the Pacers completed fifth within the Japanese Convention and gained 48 video games due to a breakout season by Victor Oladipo.

“After they traded Paul George and introduced in Oladipo and [Domantas] Sabonis and people guys in, they simply mentioned they might be fish within the backside of the East they usually’re fifth within the East they usually’ve been taking part in effectively all season,” Lue mentioned.



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