CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – LeBron James stood in the background and smiled as owner Dan Gilbert hoisted the Eastern Conference championship trophy.
One down, one to go.
“Four more,” James said to his teammates at center court.
Tuesday night James and the Cavs showed no mercy, running the Hawks out of Quicken Loans Arena and back to Atlanta with a 118-88 rout in front of a raucous sold-out crowd of 20,562 to win the Eastern Conference championship and advance to the NBA Finals.
It took 1 season for James to carry the Cavs back to the Finals and it is the fifth straight trip, sixth of his career and second with the Cavs. Now he will try and end Cleveland’s 50-year championship drought starting on June 4.
“I’m a guy who believes in unfinished business,” James said.
He did it in historical fashion becoming the first player in NBA history to average 30.0 points, 11 rebounds and 9.0 assists in a playoff series according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“We have everything it takes to win,” James said after the trophy was presented to them.
James called it a night after tallying 23 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists through 3 quarters. He got to enjoy the fourth quarter from the bench with the game already in hand and his team up 25.
Six Cavs scored in double figures, they shot 49.4 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Hawks 56-39 to clinch the conference crown.
Kyrie Irving returned from sitting out 2 games with tendinitis in his left knee to score 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. J.R. Smith was sensational off the bench once again, scoring 18 including 4 3-pointers.
The road to June was difficult.
In December they lost center Anderson Varejao to an Achilles injury for the season, James sat out 2 weeks with nagging injuries in January, there was speculation of displeasure with head coach David Blatt, Dion Waiters was shipped out of town and he netted Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov in 2 separate trades.
April and May were almost as difficult.
Kevin Love, whom the Cavs gave up their No. 1 pick and NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins for, had his left shoulder torn from its socket in Game 4 at Boston.
They trailed Chicago 2-games-to-1 before James buried a game-winner at the buzzer. Despite Irving, Shumpert and James all nursing injuries the last 2 series, the Cavs pulled together and found a way.
“Were in Cleveland, nothing is easy here,” head coach David Blatt joked.
But it was earned.