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Henry Liao

NBA Playoffs: Cavs Advance to the Second round

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LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers may have stumbled heading into the playoffs, going just 23-23 over its last 46 games (including 10-14 since March 1) in the regular wars, but the reigning National Basketball Association titlists are the first team to advance to the second round of the ongoing four-tier playoffs following a 4-0 sweep of the 7-seed Indiana Pacers in their best-of-seven East duel.

James chalked up 33 points, 10 boards, four dimes, four steals and two blocks to power the second-seeded Cavs to a 106-102 victory over the Pacers today in Game 4 of their first-round series in Indiana.

James also won his 21st consecutive first-round playoff assignment under the current 16-team, four-tier postseason format established in 1984. This shattered the previous league mark of 20 straight victories shared by the Los Angeles Lakers? Earvin (Magic) Johnson, James Worthy and Michael Cooper. (Overall, he?s 48-7 in his career in first-round games.) The four-time league Most Valuable Player also is now 12-0 for his career in opening-round playoff series wins without a loss (trailing just Robert Horry and Derek Fisher, both at 16-0)

For the four-game series, LeBron averaged 32.8 points on .543 (50-for-92) FG and .579 (22-for-38 FT shooting), 9.8 rebounds and 9.0 assists, Kyrie Irving normed 25.3 scores and 3.0 assists and Kevin Love owned clips of 15.5 ppg and 9.3 rpg.

The series was more closely-fought than the final result indicated. Cleveland won the series by a combined total of just 16 points ? matching the smallest margin of victory in a four-game sweep set by the Golden State Warriors in their 1975 NBA Finals triumph over the Washington Bullets.
The Cavs will face the winner of the series between No. 3 Toronto vs. No. 6 seed Milwaukee, which is deadlocked at 2-2 going into today?s Game five in Air Canada Centre, in the second segment of the four-round playoffs.

In another East first-round matchup, the top-seeded Boston Celtics and No. 8 seed Chicago Bulls are tied at 2-2 entering Game 5 on Thursday April 27, Manila time, at the TD Garden. Each of the first four games has gone to the dark-colored (road) team ? the first time it has happened in the postseason since the 1994 Western semifinal series between Houston and Phoenix that stretched to seven games with the homecourt-advantageous Rockets emerging victorious not only in the series but eventually securing the league crown via a 4-3 decision over the New York Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals.

Coping with the effects of the emotional rollercoaster ride arising from the death of the 22-year-old sister of point guard Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics? top scorer and the NBA?s third-leading scorer Isaiah Thomas during the regulars at 28.9 ppg, Boston dropped the first two games of the series at home. The Green, however, bounced back to take the third and fourth games in Chicago, which lost playmaker and former Celtics championship star (200 Rajon Rondo due to a fractured right thumb after leading the Bulls to a 2-0 lead on averages of 11.5 points, 10 assists 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 steals.

The winner of the Boston-Chicago series will clash with the winner of the series between No. 4 seed Washington vs. No. 5 seed Atlanta, which the Wizards lead, 2-1, going into Tuesday's Game 4 in Atlanta, in the second round.

In the West, the 2015 NBA champion and the 2017 playoffs? No. 1 overall seed Golden State Warriors have taken a commanding 3-0 lead over the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers despite the absence of Kevin Durant in the last two games due to a strained left calf and head coach Steve Kerr in Game Three ? and also his unavailability in Tuesday's Game Four in Portland ? due to head and neck pains arising from his chronic back problems.

No team in NBA playoff history has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

The winner of the Golden State-Portland setto will take on the winner of the series between No. 4 seed Los Angeles Clippers and No. 5 seed Utah Jazz, which is evened up at 2-all following a 105-98 home win by the Jazz in Game 4 today that coincided with the return of Utah?s 7-1 French center Rudy Gobert following a two-game absence due to a left knee injury. The LA Clippers? Blake Griffin is out for the remainder of the playoffs after sustaining a right toe injury in the first half of Game 3.

The series between the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs and the No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies is tied at 2-2 with each of the first four games having gone to the home team. Game Five will be held Tuesday (Manila time) in San Antonio.

The San Antonio-Memphis series victor will tangle with the No. 3 seed Houston vs. No. 6 seed Oklahoma City series winner in the second round.
Houston leads OKC, 3-1, after the Rockets took Game Four, 113-109, today on the Thunder?s home floor. OKC star and NBA scoring king Russell Westbrook had his third consecutive triple-double performance with 35 points (on 10-for-28 FG shooting), 14 rebounds and 14 assists ? to equal Wilt Chamberlain?s NBA playoff record of three-straight T-D efforts with the eventual champion Philadelphia 76ers in 1967. While the league?s No. 2 scorer James Harden was held to 16 points due to an ankle injury, his Rockets mate Nene came off the bench to score 28 points on 12-for-12 field-goal shooting to tie an NBA playoff record for most field goals made without a miss. Nene, who also had 10 rebounds, is the first player in playoff annals to be perfect from the field in a 25-point, 10-rebound performance.

Only nine teams have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to capture a best-of-seven playoff series.
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