BOSTON (AP) — LeBron James scored 27 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a shoulder injury to Kevin Love to complete a first-round sweep of the Boston Celtics with a 101-93 victory Sunday.
Love left the court in the first quarter after hurting his left shoulder, and J.R. Smith was ejected for swinging his arm at Jae Crowder, but the Cavaliers held on to win a series for the first time since 2010, before James left for Miami.
Now Cleveland gets extra time before facing the winner of the Chicago-Milwaukee series. The Bulls lead 3-1.
The Cavaliers led 57-36 at halftime even though James missed eight of 12 shots and Love left the game for good after becoming entangled with Boston’s Kelly Olynyk while chasing a loose ball. Love immediately headed for the locker room and there was no word on the severity of his injury.
The Celtics made it competitive by outscoring the Cavaliers 25-13 in the third quarter to cut the lead to 70-61. And when Smith was ejected less than two minutes into the period after a foul that injured Crowder, Boston became more aggressive, scoring the next six points, while Cleveland missed 16 of 20 shots in the period.
The Cavaliers won their first series since beating the Bulls in the opening round in 2010 before losing to Boston. James left for Miami two months later and Cleveland missed the playoffs the next four seasons before he returned this season.
The sweep was the Cavaliers’ first since 2009, when they did it against Detroit and Atlanta before losing to Orlando in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Cavaliers led 99-89 with 44 seconds left, but the Celtics didn’t give up. Isaiah Thomas hit a layup and Avery Bradley sank two free throws to cut the lead to six before the ball went out of bounds off Kyrie Irving. But Gigi Datome missed a 3-pointer before Irving was fouled and made two shots.
For the Celtics, it was a swift end to a rebuilding season that lasted longer than expected. That followed a regular season in which they went a surprising 40-42, a 15-win increase over the previous season. And they have reason for optimism with four draft picks this year and the potential of four first-rounders next year.
They lost the first game against the Cavaliers by 13 points and the next two by eight each, even trailing by just three with 2:45 left before Love hit two 3-pointers.
The Cavaliers didn’t need him Sunday.
Irving had 24 points for Cleveland and Iman Shumpert added 15.
Thomas and Jared Sullinger had 21 points apiece.
Cavaliers: James has reached the playoffs in each of his last 10 seasons, going to the finals five times and winning twice. He is 20-2 in his last 22 first-round games. … Cleveland committed only eight turnovers and had four players with double-figure rebounds — Timofey Mozgov with 11 and James, Irving and Shumpert with 10 apiece.
Celtics: Crowder didn’t return after the technical against Smith. … Thomas missed his first 10 shots after missing seven of nine in Game 3. He finally connected with 5:21 left in the third quarter Sunday. That 3-pointer was Boston’s first of the game after 11 misses.
Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart apologized to his teammates after oversleeping and arriving late at the pregame shootaround. Smart usually starts, but coach Brad Stevens said he had decided to start Crowder instead even before Smart was late. Stevens held Smart out until early in the second quarter when he was Boston’s sixth substitute to enter the game.