Cavaliers one win from longest playoff winning streak in NBA history

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The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals.

Don’t let that distract you from the fact that the Cavaliers haven’t lost since that three-game comeback.

Cleveland has since swept the Pacers and Raptors in the first two rounds of these playoffs then taken a 1-0 lead on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s a 12-game playoff winning streak – tied for the second-longest of all-time.

Only the Lakers, who won the last two games of the 1988 NBA Finals then swept through the 1989 Western Conference playoffs, have produced a longer playoff winning streak. The Cavs can tie that 13-game run by beating Boston in Game 2 tomorrow.

The Cavaliers aren’t the only team with an active historic playoff winning streak. Golden State has won 10 straight playoff games – tied for the sixth-longest streak ever – by sweeping the Trail Blazers and Jazz and going up 2-0 on the Spurs.

Here’s every double-digit playoff winning streak in NBA history:

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Los Angeles Lakers (1988-1989): 13

  • Beat Detroit Pistons in 1988 Finals, 4-3 (won final two games)
  • Beat Portland Trail Blazers in 1989 first round, 3-0
  • Beat Seattle SuperSonics in 1989 second round, 4-0
  • Beat Phoenix Suns in 1989 conference finals, 4-0

Lost 1989 NBA Finals to Detroit Pistons, 4-0

Cleveland Cavaliers (2016-2017): 12

  • Beat Golden State Warriors in 2016 NBA Finals, 4-3 (won final three games)
  • Beat Indiana Pacers in 2017 first round, 4-0
  • Beat Toronto Raptors in 2017 second round, 4-0
  • Lead Boston Celtics in 2017 conference finals, 1-0

Los Angeles Lakers (2000-2001): 12

  • Beat Indiana Pacers in 2000 NBA Finals, 4-2 (won final game)
  • Beat Portland Trail Blazers in 2001 first round, 3-0
  • Beat Sacramento Kings in 2001 second round, 4-0
  • Beat San Antonio Spurs in 2001 conference finals, 4-0

Lost first game of 2001 NBA Finals to Philadelphia 76ers, but won series 4-1

San Antonio Spurs (1999): 12

  • Beat Minnesota Timberwolves in 1999 first round, 3-1 (won final two games)
  • Beat Los Angeles Lakers 1999 second round, 4-0
  • Beat Portland Trail Blazers in 1999 conference finals, 4-0
  • Beat New York Knicks in 1999 NBA Finals, 4-1 (won first two games)

Detroit Pistons (1989-1990): 12

  • Beat Chicago Bulls in 1989 conference finals, 4-2 (won final three games)
  • Beat Los Angeles Lakers in 1989 NBA Finals, 4-0
  • Beat Indiana Pacers in 1990 first round, 3-0
  • Beat New York Knicks in 1990 second round, 4-1 (won first two games)

Golden State Warriors (2017): 10

  • Beat Portland Trail Blazers in 2017 first round, 4-0
  • Beat Utah Jazz in 2017 second round, 4-0
  • Lead San Antonio Spurs in 2017 conference finals, 2-0

Cleveland Cavaliers (2016): 10

  • Beat Boston Celtics in 2016 first round, 4-0
  • Beat Atlanta Hawks in 2016 second round, 4-0
  • Beat Toronto Raptors in 2016 conference finals, 4-2 (won first two games)

San Antonio Spurs (2012): 10

  • Beat Utah Jazz in 2012 first round, 4-0
  • Beat Los Angeles Clippers in 2012 second round, 4-0
  • Lost to Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 conference finals, 4-2 (won first two games)

New Jersey Nets (2003): 10

  • Beat Milwaukee Bucks in 2003 first round, 4-2 (won final two games)
  • Beat Boston Celtics in 2003 second round, 4-0
  • Beat Detroit Pistons in 2003 conference finals, 4-0

Lost first game of 2003 NBA Finals to San Antonio Spurs and lost series, 4-2

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.