LeBron James and David Blatt.
(photo credit: GREGORY SHAMUS / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
LeBron James booked his place in the NBA Finals for the fifth straight year when the Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the Atlanta Hawks 118-88 on Tuesday to complete a 4-0 sweep of the Eastern Conference Final.
The Cavaliers's coach is Israeli-American David Blatt, who in 2014 lead Maccabi Tel Aviv to its big win in the Euroleague championship. On June 12, 2014, he announced he would be leaving Israel for the NBA.
James scored a game-high 23 points as the Cavs advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007, where they will play either the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets.
For James, who returned to the Cavaliers after four seasons with the Miami Heat, it will be the fifth year in a row, and sixth overall, that he has played in the NBA Finals.
In addition to his 23 points, James also made nine rebounds and had seven assists on Tuesday, doing most of his scoring in the first half as Cleveland opened up a commanding 59-42 lead by halftime.
"We've worked our tails off all season to get to the this point, and to be able to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA finals is the ultimate, especially in this city," James said in a courtside interview. "We'll be ready to go (in the finals)."
The Cavs were bolstered by the return of point guard Kyrie Irving, who had missed the last two games with a knee injury. Irving played 22 minutes and scored 16 points.
For the Hawks, who finished the regular season as the top-ranked team in the East, point guard Jeff Teague led his team with 17 points, while forward Paul Millsap had 16 points and pulled down ten rebounds.
The NBA Finals start on June 4.