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NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

NBA Playoffs: LeBron James makes history as Cavaliers roll into Finals

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BOSTON -- The NBA Finals has its first "three-match," courtesy of a King who passed His Airness.

LeBron James scored 35 points and passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA's all-time playoff scoring leader as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 on Thursday night to claim their third straight Eastern Conference title and another trip to the NBA Finals to meet the Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving added 24 points and Kevin Love finished with 15 for the Cavs, who never trailed and led by as many as 39 points in one of their most dominating wins of the series. The Cavs set an NBA record by winning their 13th consecutive series closeout opportunity.

Cleveland's 4-1 series win gives it a 12-1 record this postseason and sets up a third consecutive matchup with Western Conference champion Golden State, the team it beat in the Finals last season to claim the franchise's first championship.

"I wear the number because of Mike," James said. "I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike, just because of what he was able to accomplish. When you're watching Michael Jordan it's almost like a god. So I didn't think I could be Mike."

It will mark the seventh straight trip to the Finals for James, who hit a 3-pointer late in in the third quarter to nudge past Jordan on the playoff scoring list. He quickly flashed one finger as he backpedaled down the court.

In the postgame trophy presentation backstage, James spent most of it lingering in the background as his teammates celebrated.

But there's no denying that his accolades are putting him in the orbit of Jordan, his boyhood idol.

"The biggest thing is I did it just being me, I don't have to score the ball to make an impact on the basketball game," James said. "That was my mindset. If I'm not scoring the ball, how can I still make an impact on the game?"

As much as this series was about James, Irving helped turn the tide of the series with a 42-point effort in Game 4. But he said both he and his teammates continue to be inspired by their leader.

"He's been the driving force, this entire playoff run, and all of us have just helped us along the way," Irving said.

Coach Tyronn Lue said they've gotten tighter this season.

"This team is a crazy team. They just stayed resilient all year, got to the playoffs, and we really stepped our game up," he said. "Now we can start focusing on Golden State to get ready. As of tonight, I'll get started."

Avery Bradley led Boston with 23 points.

The Cavaliers basically conceded the East's top seed to the Celtics at the end of the regular season by opting to rest their starters in advance of the playoffs. But they displayed their superiority over the final two games to wrap up the series.

After allowing the Celtics to seize the early momentum in Game 4, the Cavs barely gave them the chance in Game 5.

Led by its Big Three, Cleveland quickly built a 21-point lead in the first quarter, while getting lots of contributions from their teammates.

Love continued to knock down shots from the outside, Irving sliced his way into the lane to the rim and James got free for several of his one-handed, tomahawk dunks.

It was a very welcomed sight in Irving's case, after he rolled his left ankle in the third quarter of Cleveland's Game 4 win. He showed no signs of lingering issues, though, beating several defenders off the dribble and handing out seven assists.

Meanwhile, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver helped spread out Boston's defenders by connecting on several wide-open scoring opportunities.

Deron Williams, who had been quiet for most of the series, also got in on the act with a series-best 14 points for Cleveland.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James has scored 30 or more points in 11 of Cleveland's 13 games this postseason. ... Improved to 36-5 against Eastern Conference opponents in the playoffs since 2015. ... The 43 points Cleveland scored in the first quarter set a team postseason record for a quarter.

Celtics: Never led at home in the series. ... Finished the playoffs having made at least 10 3-pointers in 16 of their 18 games. ... Held a pregame moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing.

Making progress
The Celtics did their best to keep up, but the consistent outside shooting, bench scoring and defense they relied on to stun Cleveland in Game 3 wasn't there Thursday night.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said though he's disappointed with how the season ended, he's encouraged that no one in Boston's locker room is satisfied just making it to the conference finals.

"I told our guys: `We made a lot of great strides, but this pain is part of the path to what we ultimately want to be,'" he said.

Showing support
Injured Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was in attendance Thursday night and gathered with his teammates in a huddle before they took the court for pregame warmups.

The two-time All-Star was sidelined in Game 2 after aggravating a hip injury.

Source: Sixers sign Jonah Bolden to 4-year contract, trade Richaun Holmes to Suns

Source: Sixers sign Jonah Bolden to 4-year contract, trade Richaun Holmes to Suns

The Sixers are not quite done making moves this offseason.

The team on Friday sent big man Richaun Holmes to the Suns for cash considerations and signed 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden to a four-year deal, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the trade and Bolden's signing.

With these moves, the Sixers’ roster remains at 15 players, but that could change if the team finds a way to rid themselves of Jerryd Bayless’ contract — say, in a trade with Cleveland (see story).

The writing has been on the wall for Holmes. Now entering his fourth year, the 2015 second-round pick struggled to find a role in Brett Brown’s rotation last season with a healthy Joel Embiid and veteran Amir Johnson in the fold. While he offered energy, athleticism and weakside rim protection off the bench, Holmes lacked discipline defensively, something Brown hasn’t tolerated during his tenure.

Bolden will essentially take Holmes’ spot on the roster as a developmental big. With quicker feet defensively, Bolden has more versatility to guard fours. While his summer league performance was underwhelming offensively, Bolden did impress defensively, especially against No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. It’s important to note that the third and fourth years of Bolden’s deal are not guaranteed, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

Drafted by the Sixers out of Bowling Green State, Holmes flashed at times but was only able to get into 48 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes a contest. He averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 156 career games with the Sixers.

A native Australian, Bolden attended UCLA for one year before heading overseas to play for FMP Beograd of the Adriatic League. As a draft and stash this past season, Bolden played for Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv and tested his skills in the EuroLeague. He averaged 7.2 points and six rebounds in 20.8 minutes a game. He’s shown flashes of a jump shot but shot just 31 percent from three this season abroad and 24 percent in summer league action.

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Sixers' reported interest in Kyle Korver trade may be way out of Jerryd Bayless' contract

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Sixers' reported interest in Kyle Korver trade may be way out of Jerryd Bayless' contract

The Sixers have been searching for a way to end their partnership with Jerryd Bayless for some time now. And while a resolution may finally be coming into shape, it’s far from a sure thing.

The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey first reported Thursday that the Sixers have had discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a trade involving Bayless and Kyle Korver.

However, The New York Times’ Marc Stein added Friday that while a potential deal involving the two sides is “possible” it’s also “far from certain.” 

Bayless has one year remaining on his contract at $8.57 million. 

Korver has two years left on his deal for $7.56 million in 2018-19 and $7.5 million the following season. Of that 2019-20 salary, only $3.44 million is guaranteed if Korver remains on the team after July 7, 2019. The money becomes fully guaranteed after that point. 

Any deal for the Cavaliers to take on Bayless would likely also involve a draft pick going back to Cleveland. The Sixers currently have control of most of their own assets, including six total second-round selections in the next two drafts.

Korver, who spent the first four-plus years of his career with the Sixers, is still getting it done in the NBA at 37 years old. The veteran sharpshooter played in 73 games regular-season games last season for the Cavs and averaged 9.2 points a night on 43.6 percent three-point shooting (sixth-best in the NBA).

Meanwhile, Bayless fell out of the rotation in Year 2 of his three-year, $27 million contract with the Sixers. The 29-year-old guard was a DNP-CD for 39 of the Sixers’ final 40 games, including playoffs, with the lone appearance being a showing for 1:44 in the team’s Game 1 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

In all, Bayless played in just 39 contests and averaged 7.9 points (41.6 percent shooting from the field and 37.0 percent shooting from three-point range).

“It wasn’t easy,” Bayless said during exit interviews of his diminished role as the season went on. “This whole year from an individual standpoint wasn’t the easiest. But, at the same time, when you’re around a group of guys that we had and the success that we had, it made it easier. 

“I’m really grateful that I was able to be a part of this organization this year. We’ll see what happens moving forward.”

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