Cavaliers complete sweep of Hawks, advance to NBA Finals

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The Hawks gave the Cavaliers everything they had in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but still came up short in an overtime loss thanks to an incredibly brilliant performance from LeBron James.

Once Game 4 began, with Cleveland looking to close out the series at home, it was clear that Atlanta simply had nothing left.

The Cavaliers steamrolled the Hawks 118-88 to win the Eastern Conference crown, and advance to the NBA Finals.

While Cleveland will be experiencing its first trip to the championship round since 2007, this is beginning to be a regular occurrence for LeBron — he’s the first player (along with teammate James Jones) to make five straight Finals appearances since several members of the 1966 Boston Celtics.

James dragged his team to victory in Game 3, but didn’t need to do nearly as much of the heavy lifting in this one. He finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but didn’t play the entire fourth quarter due to the lead never dropping below 22 points.

Kyrie Irving returned to the lineup after a two-game absence, and looked sharp in scoring nine first-quarter points and 16 overall in just under 22 minutes of action. Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov continued their punishment of the Hawks’ front line, and J.R. Smith rained down jumpers to finish with 18 points off the bench.

Atlanta’s 60-win season is something to be celebrated, and injuries are largely to blame for the disappointing way that the Hawks saw things come to a close. Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver were out entirely before the series was through, and DeMarre Carroll, while still on the floor, was never the same after the Game 1 knee injury he suffered.

The question for the Cavaliers now becomes whether or not the team is skilled enough to rise to the challenge of battling the best team in the West, which is likely to be the Golden State Warriors, who have been dominant on both ends of the floor all season long.

But as we’ve seen throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs for going on the last five seasons, having LeBron James in the starting lineup is more than enough to give whatever team he happens to be playing for a legitimate fighting chance.

Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan fined $15,000 for criticizing referees

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The Raptors lost to the Warriors on Saturday, and DeMar DeRozan – despite his own brilliant performance – was irked.

The Toronto guard seemed particularly upset about a review of an out-of-bounds call in the final seconds. After initially giving the ball to the Raptors, officials said it touched DeRozan while he was out of bounds and granted Golden State possession:

The NBA’s replay guidelines say (emphasis mine): “Referees can only initiate a review on a called out-of-bounds play (for example, not one where an out-of-bounds might have occurred) and only those involving doubt as to which player caused the ball to go out (not those, for example, where a player stepped on the line).”

DeRozan

I mean, it’s frustrating being out there feeling like you playing 5-on-8. It’s just what it feel like, period. Some of them calls was terrible, period.

I thought you couldn’t even do that. I’m not even a referee, and I know that rule. So, somebody correct me if I’m wrong.

The NBA corrected him in the two-minute report, saying “After communicating with the Replay Center, the ruling on the floor of Raptors possession is overturned and the Warriors are awarded possession because the ball touches DeRozan’s (TOR) leg while his body is out of bounds before Curry (GSW) knocks the ball out. Referees were able to review two aspects of this out-of-bounds play since they were part of the same sequence.”

Then, the league fined him.

NBA release:

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan has been fined $15,000 for public criticism of the officiating, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The comments were made following the Raptors’ 127-125 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, Jan. 13

Saying “5-on-8” seems to be a secret code word for getting fined. I’m not sure whether the rest of DeRozan’s comments would have gotten him fined, but that phrase almost certainly did him in.

Kyle Lowry on plan to meet Ben Simmons after ejections: ‘Put it this way, I was back there’

AP Photo/Rich Schultz
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As Kyle Lowry and Ben Simmons were ejected late in the 76ers’ win over the Raptors yesterday, the players appeared to challenge each other to meet in back.

Lowry eagerly left the court and headed through the tunnel. Simmons appeared much more reluctant at that point.

Despite a report of a confrontation in the hallway, Simmons said nothing escalated, as he went to his locker room.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet

TKO.

Warriors complained of no hot water in showers in Cleveland

Michael Hickey/Getty Images
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The Cavaliers are clearly frustrated.

Did someone in Cleveland take out that frustration on the Warriors after they beat the Cavs last night?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Players were complaining about there being no hot water in the visiting locker room showers. When they walked in, they could be heard screaming in discomfort. Most of the players emerged shivering from taking a quick wash-off.

“Man, they got to do something in ‘The Q.’ Somebody call Bron!” Kevin Durant yelled, referring to LeBron James.

No one seemed angry; the situation was more humorous.

That’s the right approach. Whenever the hot water is out in a visiting locker room, the finger is pointed at the home team for sabotage. Sometimes, heating systems just fail.

Giannis Antetokounmpo assists fastbreak dunk with football-style long snap (video)

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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Giannis Antetokounmpo is scoring more in the post, the basketball analogue of football’s trenches.

Apparently, he’s taking the comparison to the next level.

In the Bucks’ win over the Wizards yesterday, Antetokounmpo played the part of a long-snapping center to set up Khris Middleton in transition.

NBC Sports Washington: