Cleveland is the first NBA team to move on to the second round after Sunday’s victory at Indiana clinched a four-game sweep for the defending NBA champions.
INDIANAPOLIS – LeBron James feasted at the rim, Kyrie Irving had his offense going in spurts and Deron Williams led another solid bench effort for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James scored a game-high 33 points and also had 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks as the Cavaliers ended the Indiana Pacers’ season with a 106-102 victory in Game 4 of their first-round Eastern Conference series on Sunday.
Cleveland blew a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter and trailed 102-100 with 1:31 remaining. James’ three-pointer with 68 seconds to play put Cleveland ahead for good.
Pacers All-Star Paul George had a chance to tie the game but his three-point attempt with one second left didn’t draw rim.
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Irving added 28 points and Williams had 14, and now the Cavaliers have a full week off before they play either the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals starting May 1 in Cleveland.
James’ teams are now 12-0 in the first round, and he hasn’t lost a first-round game since 2012. He pushed his first-round winning streak to 21 games.
It was the first time the Pacers have been swept in the first round since the NBA went to a best-of-7 format for the opening round starting in 2003. It was the first time they were swept since the 1992 playoffs – a stretch of 37 consecutive series with at least one victory.
The Pacers now face a monumental offseason as a franchise, and Pacers coach Nate McMillan hinted at that in his pregame comments.
It’s no secret that All-Star forward Paul George’s future with the Pacers is unknown. He has said he wants to win with the Pacers, but how close are the Pacers to competing for an Eastern Conference championship?
George had 15 points on just 5-for-21 shooting in what could have been his final game in a Pacers uniform.
George has one-year remaining on his contract and will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season, and the Pacers have this decision: trade George this summer and get players and/or draft picks in return or convince him that they will build a contender around him and re-sign him.
They also risk losing him for nothing in return if they don’t trade him, and he signs elsewhere as a free agent in the summer of 2018.
McMillan said if the Pacers didn’t play with heart and effort it could lead to “major changes.”
They didn’t fold. But even with that Pacers’ heart and effort, it doesn’t mean major changes won’t happen.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.