LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance on Sunday night. The Cavs defeated the Celtics in seven games.

While the series was dramatic, where does it rank among all Eastern Conference finals since 2010?

James has been tremendous this whole season, demonstrating why he is still the best player on the planet (currently playing). James is currently averaging 34.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 8.8 assists during the playoffs. He is shooting 54.2% from the field and 34.4% from beyond the arc. And he is not just doing it on the offensive end as he has compiled 1.39 steals and 1.06 blocks per game as well.

 

9. Cleveland over Atlanta 2015 (four games)

The Hawks were the NBA ’s most surprising team in 2015, winning 60 games and advancing to the conference finals for the first time since 1970. Atlanta won both of its first and second round series in six games.

The Cavaliers returned to the conference finals for the first time since 2009-10. Cleveland finished second in the conference with a 53-29 record. The Cavs swept the Celtics and then finished off the Bulls in six games.

Cleveland essentially won the series in the opening game of the series. The Cavaliers, who got 31 points from Lebron James and 28 from JR Smith, broke open the game by going on a 22-4 run to take 88-67 lead in the fourth quarter. Smith knocked down a franchise record eight triples in the game.

The Cavaliers easily handled the Hawks in Game 2 (94-82). In what turned out to be the most exciting game of the series, the Hawks came out ready to play in Game 3. Aided by a cold start by James, who missed his first nine shot attempts, Atlanta led by three after one quarter before taking a 49-48 halftime lead.

However, Cleveland continued its postseason trend of dominating the third quarter, leading by as many as 10. Atlanta would eventually battle back, thanks to a 26-14 run, to take a four-point lead with under two minutes left. The Cavaliers scored the final four points of regulation to force overtime as the Hawks’ Jeff Teague missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer of regulation.

Trailing 111-109, James scored five straight points to give him 37 for the game to go along with 18 rebounds and 13 dimes. The performance marked his 12th postseason triple-double of his career and 51st overall.   

 

Cleveland coasted to victory (118-88) in Game 4.

Hawks’ Al Horford was issued a Flagrant 2  and was subsequently ejected in the second quarter of Game 3 for hitting Matthew Dellavedova in the head with an elbow.  Kyrie Irving missed Game 2 and Game 3 of the series due to tendonitis in his knee.

 

8. Cleveland over Boston 2017 (five games)

The Celtics were the surprise team in the NBA, posting a conference-best 53-29 record. The Cavaliers, coming off their first NBA title in 2016, didn’t show their true form until the playoffs. The Cavs, 51-31 during the regular season, swept their first two playoff opponents. The Celtics, like Raptors did in 2016, came into the conference finals having to play several more games than the Cavaliers. Boston was extended to six games by Chicago in the opening round and then had to go the full seven games in round two.

Cleveland took advantage of the weary Celtics and took a  2-0 advantage in the series. Giving the Cavs the distinction of starting the playoffs with 10 straight victories for a second consecutive year.

The Cavs won Game 1 117-104 and Game 2 130-86. Lebron James topped the 30-point mark in each contest while doling out seven assists. Kevin Love hauled in 12 boards in each game.

Boston stole Game 3 at Quicken Loans by outscoring Cleveland 29-21 in the fourth to earn a 111-108 victory. But the Cavaliers quickly wrapped up the series by taking the next two contests by double figures.

 

7. Miami over Chicago 2011 (five games)

Lebron James led the Heat to the Conference finals in his first season with the franchise. The Heat finished the regular season in second place in the conference, four games in back of the Bulls in the standings. Chicago, 62-20, achieved 60 wins for the first time since 1998.

Both teams basically coasted to the conference finals with Chicago playing one more game than Miami. Unfortunately, the series was not as close as it was expected to be with the top two conference teams facing each other.

There were several great individual performances, however. Derrick Rose put on a show in Game 1, tallying 28 points and doling out six dimes as the  Bulls rolled to a 103-82 victory. The Heat, led by James and Chris Bosh, took the next two games by double figures.

Chicago tried to knot the series up at two games apiece but Miami held them to just 25 points over the final 17 minutes. The Heat, who received 35 points from James, outscored the Bulls 16-8 in overtime to earn a 101-93 victory.

The Heat earned their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2006 after overcoming a 12-point deficit over the final three minutes of Game 5. The Heat outscored the Bulls 26-18 in the fourth quarter to net an 83-80 win. James posted his second double-double of the series, finishing 28 points and 11 caroms in the contest.

Chicago swept Miami 3-0 during the regular season.

 

6. Cleveland over Toronto 2016 (six games)

Cleveland, once again the conference finals, found themselves up against Toronto. The Raptors, who finished a game behind the top-seeded Cavaliers with a franchise record 56 wins, were in the finals for the first time in franchise history. However, the playoffs were a far different story.

The Cavs swept their first two series opponents (Detroit and Atlanta) while the Raptors struggled with their two opponents. The Raptors needed seven games to defeat both Indiana (first round) and Miami (second round).

Cleveland took the first two games of the series as Kyrie Irving was fantastic. Irving totaled 53 points, on 23 of 39 shooting, and eight assists over those two games. The Cavs won both games by 20-plus points.

Toronto turned up the defensive intensity when they returned to Air Canada Centre. The Raptors held the Cavs to under 100 points in Game 3 and 4 to even up the series. They also got monster games from DeMar DeRozan, Bismack Biyombo, and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan exploded for 32 points in Game 3 while Biyombo grabbed a franchise record 26 rebounds. Lowry then erupted for 35 points in Game 4 with 20 coming in the first half.

Cleveland ended the series with a pair of blowout victories, taking Game 5 116-78 and Game 6 113-86.   

 

5. Boston over Orlando 2010 (six games)

This matchup was a rematch of the conference semifinals from the year before, which the Magic won 4-3. It also marked the second straight conference finals appearance for the Magic and the second in three seasons for the Celtics.

With contributions from nearly everyone, Boston took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. The Celtics used tough defense and solid offensive third quarters to help them win the first two games by four and three points, respectively. The C’s took control of Game 3 early and coasted to victory.

Orlando extended the series by taking Game 4 (96-92 in overtime) at TD Garden and then raced to a 113-92 Game 5 victory.

But Paul Pierce would not let the Magic have a chance to get back to the NBA Finals by ending the series in six. Pierce torched the nets for 31 points and grabbed 13 boards as the C’s earned a 96-84 win.

Orlando was the second seed while Boston was the fourth. The Celtics dispatched the top-seeded Cavaliers in the semis (4-2).

 

4. Miami over Indiana 2014 (6 games)

This series marked the third straight time the teams met in the playoffs. Miami won the other two playoff series as well.

The Pacers were the top seed (56-26) in the Eastern Conference by finishing two games ahead the Heat (54-28). However, Indiana struggled with Atlanta (seven games) in the opening round and Washington (six games).

Miami came into the series with a 8-1 playoff record after sweeping Charlotte in the first round and taking out Brooklyn in five games.

The Pacers got off to a great start in the opening game of the series, going up by as many as 19 points, before taking the game 107-96.

Game 2 was close throughout with the Heat outscoring the Pacers 25-20 over the final 12 minutes to take the game (87-83). Dwyane Wade, who poured in 23 points, and James combined to score the Heat’s final 20 points. The victory marked the 15th straight playoff series that the Heat won at least one road game.   

Indiana started Game 3 out strong, taking a 15 point lead, although Miami cut the deficit to four points at halftime. The Heat took control of the game in fourth as Ray Allen pumped in 16 points, including four 3-pointers.

The Heat led Game 4 from the opening tip to take a 3-1 series lead. Paul George scored 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter to force a sixth game as the Pacers won 93-90.

Miami advanced to its third straight Finals with a 117-92 victory in Game 6.

 

3. Miami over Boston 2012 (7 Games)

The series marked the third straight year that the Celtics and the Heat faced each other. Boston got the better of Miami in 2010 (first round), however, Miami returned the favor in the conference semifinals the following year (2011).

The Heat, who lost Chris Bosh to injury in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, took the first two games of the series. The Heat easily won Game 1 (93-79) at American Airlines Arena as LeBron James posted his third double-double of the postseason, posting 32 points and 13 rebounds. Game 2 was much closer with Ray Allen knotting the game at 99 with 3 seconds left. The Heat, who earned a 115-111 overtime victory, had a chance to win in regulation but James missed two bunnies from two feet away.

The Celtics took the next three games by ratcheting up their defense. Boston held Miami to fewer than 92 points in each of those three games.

Miami forced a seventh game by blowing out Boston 98-79 in Game 6 behind a 45 point, 15 rebound effort by James. In Game 7, The Celtics got off to a strong start and took a seven-point halftime lead. But Miami outscored Boston 55-35 in the second half to secure a second straight trip to the Finals. Bosh played the final three games of the series.

The Heat earned the second seed in the Eastern Conference, posting a 46-20 record, while the Celtics finished fourth with a 39-27 in the strike-shortened season. Chicago was the top seed with a 50-16 record.

 

2. Cleveland over Boston 2018 (7 games)

This series was extremely hard fought. While Game 7 wasn’t a thing a beauty, it was an exciting game with the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum trying to trade punches with James.

Both teams faced adversity this year. The Celtics, the number two seed, were missing their top two players — Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward —  while the Cavs, the fourth seed, also dealt with injuries and a major roster shakeup at the trade deadline.

Boston, one of the youngest teams to reach a conference finals, started the series by continuing what it had done the whole season. Which was defending vigorously, getting contributions from everyone, and winning at home. The Celtics completely shut down James and company in Game 1 of the series, winning 108-83. The C’s then took Game 2 107-94. Jaylen Brown led the way for Boston, pumping in 23 points in each of the first two home games.

It was a different story when the venue switched to Quickens Loans Arena. The Cavaliers got off to great starts in Game 3 and 4, topping the 30-point mark in the first quarter in each contest. The Cavs went on to tally 110 in each game. James, who finished with 42 points in Game 2, dumped in 71 points in those two contests — including 44 in Game 4.

Game 5 was where Tatum started to shine in the series. Tatum, the third pick in this year’s draft, produced his best all-around postseason game as the C’s to a 3-to-2 games lead with a 96-83 win. Tatum tallied 24 points, on 7 of 13 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds as well as four assists, two blocks and four steals in the game.

James answered Tatum’s performance with his third 40-point game of the series in Game 6. James finished with 46 points, 11 boards, and nine dimes

Game 7 was ugly with James leading the charge for the Cavaliers. The King once again barely missed a triple-double, ending up with 35 points and 15 rebounds along with nine assists. Tatum had 24 points, on 9 of 17 shooting, and seven caroms.

Game 7’s loss was the Celtics first at home during the postseason.


1. Miami over Indiana 2013 (7 games)

The Heat, looking for their third straight Finals appearance, won a franchise record 66 regular season games and had the best record in the best record in the NBA. The Heat also swept the Bulls in the opening round of playoffs and took their second-round matchup over the Bucks 4-1.

The Pacers were in the conference finals for the first time since 2003-04. The Pacers finished third in the conference with a 49-32 record. They defeated the Hawks and Knicks in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Game 1 of the series was fantastic with the teams trading punches throughout the game. The Pacers Paul George drained a game-tying 3-pointer with 0.7 seconds left in regulation. But LeBron James wouldn’t be denied, making a buzzer-beating layup to give Miami a 103-102 overtime victory. James finished the game with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists to go along with three blocks.

The Pacers, behind Roy Hibbert’s 29 points and 10 rebounds, took Game 2 of the series. The teams alternated wins over the next four games with the Heat winning the third and fifth games.

Miami took control of Game 7 in the second quarter, outscoring Indiana 33-19 to take a 52-37 halftime lead. The Heat led 76-55 at the end of three quarters before taking the game 99-76.

Indiana had won the regular season series 2-1.  

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