With 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists from LeBron James, the Cavs withstood the early exit of star forward Kevin Love with a dislocated shoulder to complete a 4-0 sweep of the Celtics in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
Love was hurt in the first quarter battling Celtics big man Kelly Olynyk, who yanked Love’s left arm as they chased a loose ball.
Love grabbed his left shoulder as he ran down the court, past his team’s bench toward the locker room. He said later he had “no doubt” Olynyk’s move was intentional and James agreed.
“I saw the replay and it didn’t look like a basketball play,” James said. “I’ve seen a lot of tie-ups in my day and that was a little different.”
The incident touched off a string of increasingly physical plays that threatened to overwhelm a game that the Cavs had well in hand.
Cleveland’s Kendrick Perkins was whistled for a foul and also picked up a technical foul in the second quarter after shoving Boston’s Jae Crowder to the court while setting a pick.
Crowder, who had been guarding James near the sideline, also received a technical foul after he and Perkins jawed at each other.
Cleveland’s J.R. Smith was ejected in the third quarter for hitting Crowder across the face as he defended the Celtics forward under the basket.
After a small push from Crowder in his back, Smith connected with his right hand as he wheeled around toward the ball.
Crowder left the game with what the Celtics said was a sprained left knee suffered when he fell on the play.
Kyrie Irving added 24 points and 11 rebounds for Cleveland and Iman Shumpert contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
– Washington march on –
They will face either Chicago or Milwaukee in the second round. The third-seeded Bulls missed a chance to sweep the Bucks on Saturday, but will try to finish them off when they take a 3-1 series lead into game five in Chicago on Monday.
The Celtics, who scraped into the playoffs with a late-season run in what was billed as a rebuilding year, were swept for the first time in 11 seasons.
Elsewhere in the East on Sunday, the Washington Wizards marched into the second round with a 125-94 romp past Toronto.
Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 11 rebounds and John Wall added 14 points and 10 assists for the Wizards, whose victory was never in doubt.
It marked the first time the club have swept an opponent in a seven-game playoff series.
After winning just two first-round sets in 34 prior seasons, Washington have now reached the second round two seasons in a row.
“To get to four is the hardest game and I’m really proud of our group,” said Wizards coach Randy Whittman, whose team raced to a big lead and led by as many as 37 in the second half.
“They were locked in… That was a workman-like four wins for us.”
The Wizards next face either top-seeded Atlanta or eighth-seeded Brooklyn. The Hawks lead that series 2-1.