The Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive season after defeating the 2-seed Boston Celtics 87-79 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Despite an abundance of adversity throughout the postseason, the Cavs are four wins away from their second NBA title in franchise history.
The Eastern Conference champions benefitted from their MVP LeBron James, who strung together a number of legendary performances as well as their veteran backcourt, who made big plays when it mattered.
Here's a look at five key stats from the Cavs' series win…
43.0: The number of rebounds the Cavs averaged per game
While the differential between the two teams averages was not substantial (Boston averaged 40.4 rebounds per game), rebounding was a key throughout the series. With the exception of Game 7 (Boston outrebounded Cleveland 42-41), the winner of the rebounding battle won the game.
Boston shot uncharacteristically poor from the field (34.1 percent) and from deep (17.9 percent) in Game 7 but its 11 offensive rebounds led to 12 second-chance points and kept things close.
The Cavs felt Kevin Love's absence on the boards in Game 7, as the All-Star averaged 11.0 rebounds in Games 1 through 5.
33.6: LeBron James' scoring average for the series
As Cleveland's role players struggled to consistently produce throughout the series, LeBron was forced to shoulder much of the offensive load. After scoring a postseason-low 15 points in Game 1, James averaged 36.7 points per game in Games 2-7, eclipsing the 40-point mark in Games 2, 4 and 6. This postseason, Cavs are 6-1 when James scores 40 or more points.
Cleveland's All-Star duo of James and Love were the only two players to average double-figure scoring for the series. At 19.7 points per game, Jaylen Brown was one of five Celtics players to post double-figure scoring averages for the series (Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum).
James' scoring kept the Cavs' offence afloat in dire times - the differential between his output and the Celtics' leaders ultimately led to Cleveland's series win. James scored or assisted on 21 of the Cavs' 30 made field goals in Game 7.
29.0: Boston's 3-point percentage in losses
The Celtics, who were the second best 3-point shooting team in the league during the regular season (37.7 percent), entered the series shooting 35.9 percent from deep. In Boston's semifinals win over the 76ers , it scored over a third of its points from beyond the arc.
In their three Eastern Conference finals wins, the Celtics shot at a 34 percent clip from deep, knocking down over 10 3-pointers in each win. In their four losses, the team shot 29 percent from beyond the arc, including a nightmarish 3-point shooting performance in Game 7 (7-of-39).
22.3: George Hill and JR Smith's combined scoring average in wins
In the Cavaliers' losses in Games 1 and 2, the starting backcourt tandem of Hill and Smith combined to score a total of 12 points on 5-of-24 shooting. When the series shifted back to Cleveland, Hill's increased aggression and Smith's 3-point shooting helped swing the momentum back in the Cavs' favour.
The duo finished the series averaging a combined 22.3 points per game in the Cavs' four wins, a stark comparison from the combined 8.0 points per game they averaged in three losses.
Hill finished Game 7 with six points, including a crucial late-game layup off of a LeBron James outlet pass. Smith finished with 12 points in the decisive game, connecting on three of his eight 3-point attempts.
As the Cavs move on to face a dynamic scoring backcourt in the NBA Finals, the play of Hill and Smith will continue to be important.
5.6: Cleveland's blocks per game in the series
In the Eastern Conference finals series, Cleveland averaged 2.6 more blocks than the Celtics, who only averaged three per game.
The Cavs blocked eight shots in their game Game 4 win and a recorded a postseason-high nine blocks in the Game 6 win. LeBron James led the way with eight blocks in the series; his blocks did more than prevent two points - they were catalysts for huge momentum swings.
"BLOCKED BY JAMES... HE DID IT AGAIN!" #WhateverItTakes #NBAPlayoffs- NBA (@NBA) May 28, 2018
📺: @ESPNNBA pic.twitter.com/LgwMKzJuRH
Cleveland's ability to protect the rim against the athletic swingmen of the Celtics proved to be a saving grace.