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James, Cavs storm into NBA Finals
CLEVELAND (NBA) - It hasn't been easy for Cleveland this season, but the Cavaliers are right where many of the experts expected them to be.
Following plenty of trials and tribulations, and the second-guessing of Cavs management for putting former Russia national team and Maccabi Tel Aviv boss David Blatt in charge, LeBron James and Co are in the NBA Finals.
Cleveland sealed their place in the title series on Tuesday night, beating the Atlanta Hawks 118-88 for a 4-0 sweep of the Eastern Conference Finals.
James, an NBA champion in his time with the Miami Heat who decided after last season to sign on with the Cavs for the second time in his career, is now four wins away from capturing a crown with his home-state team.
James has been in the Finals with Cleveland before.
This time, he wants to win them.
"I'm a guy who believes in unfinished business," he said.
James, who lost out to fellow USA international Stephen Curry in the league's MVP race, made the All-NBA First Team and he's been showing why in the playoffs.
On Tuesday, he poured in 23 points, pulled down nine rebounds and handed out seven assists as the Cavs romped to victory.
Cleveland's success, despite the presence of the amazing James, has been owed to its team play.
Different players have answered the call this season, most of them international basketball players.
"He played beautiful, moved well," Blatt said.
"He was impactful. But it was a lot bigger than that.
"The fact that he came back to play, the fact that he wanted so badly to be part of this series and being able to move forward."
He [Irving] wanted to be with his guys and contribute. - Blatt
Irving's play was all the more important because Australia's rising star Matthew Dellavedova was exhausted after logging so many minutes in the previous games.
In a five-day stretch, Dellavedova played 25 minutes in Game 1, 37 minutes in Game 2 and 45 minutes in Game 3.
"Delly, he could barely get up off the bench today and Kyrie playing," Blatt said, "... we needed his minutes and needed him out there because Delly didn't have much more in him.
Dellavedova, who filled in admirably for Irving when he was unable to stay on the court, had 10 points in Game 4.
Canada's power forward Tristan Thompson contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds while center Timofey Mozgov, a player Blatt coach in Russia's national team that Cleveland traded for during the season, had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
"Tristan and Moz have been terrific together," Blatt said.
"They dominated the rim and they dominated the glass and did it pointedly in very specific, small areas of the game, and did a great, great job."
The Warriors lead the Western Conference Finals, 3-1.