Skip to main content

Rites of postseason: LeBron looks for sweep, Clippers ailing

  • Author:
  • Publish date:

They seem like postseason traditions: LeBron James is going for a sweep, and the Los Angeles Clippers have big problems.

James is one win from the second round and the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers might be on the cusp of getting several rest days. Meanwhile, Blake Griffin will miss the rest of the season in a major blow for a Clippers team that now faces playoff drama for the fifth consecutive year.

Those are among the NBA's headlines for Sunday, with Game 4s in four first-round series.

Cleveland can oust Indiana, Houston leads 2-1 over Oklahoma City, Chicago will aim to keep home-court advantage on Boston and the Clippers - 10-1 in their last 11 games at Utah - can take command of their series against the Jazz.

''Closeout games are always the most difficult games,'' James said Saturday.

He makes them look easy.

James' teams are 21-3 in their last 24 closeout opportunities, going back to his first series with Miami in 2011. He's also looking for the 10th sweep of his career and he's coming off a 41-point, 13-rebound, 12-assist masterpiece as the Cavs pulled off an NBA-playoff-record rally from 25 points down at halftime to win Game 3 on Thursday night.

''There are three things you can do when you get tested,'' Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. ''You can give in, you can give up or you can give all you have.''

The Clippers know about getting tested. They blew a 2-0 lead (after Griffin sprained an ankle) in 2013, dealt with the Donald Sterling ban saga in 2014, were up 3-1 to Houston before falling in 2015 and saw Griffin and Chris Paul sidelined at playoff time last year.

Here's what to know for Sunday:


Cavaliers at Pacers, Cleveland leads 3-0. Game 4, 1 p.m., ABC.

NEED TO KNOW: Cleveland has won 13 consecutive first-round games and 20 of its last 21. The Cavs have outscored the Pacers by only 12 points in this series, but James - who has a personal 20-game first-round winning streak going back to his Miami days, and is a ridiculous 47-7 all-time in that round - finds ways to get it done.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Indiana F Paul George, and his Game 7 mentality. In his last six facing-elimination games, he's averaged 27.8 points and 9.3 rebounds. Indiana went 4-2 in those games.


PRESSURE IS ON: Cavs stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Their jobs obviously aren't in jeopardy, but it'll be interesting to see how they respond after being benched in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends


Rockets at Thunder, Houston leads 2-1. Game 4, 3:30 p.m., ABC.

NEED TO KNOW: The Thunder were a couple inches from a 3-0 hole, but James Harden's 3-pointer at the buzzer missed Friday night and Oklahoma City has new life after a two-point win. Russell Westbrook continues to be stellar for the Thunder, Victor Oladipo looked like he's settled into the playoffs with a solid Game 3 and expect coach Billy Donovan to keep using two-time NBA champion Norris Cole going forward.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Harden. He's the fourth player to open a postseason with three straight games of 35 points or more, joining Michael Jordan (twice), Bernard King and Jerry West. The record is six, by West in 1964-65.

INJURY UPDATE: Rockets F Sam Dekker (left hand) is out.

PRESSURE IS ON: Houston. The last thing the Rockets want is to get Westbrook in a best-of-three series, and with momentum.


Celtics at Bulls, Chicago leads 2-1. Game 4, 6:30 p.m., TNT.

NEED TO KNOW: Boston got back into the series with a big Game 3 win on Friday night. They won on the strength of 17 3s, balanced scoring - five players between 11 and 18 points - and a 34-14 edge in assists. Holding the Bulls to 39 percent shooting obviously didn't hurt. Chicago wasn't the same without injured G Rajon Rondo.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Bulls G Dwyane Wade. He told teammates Friday ''we're in a good position.'' He knows how important locker-room morale is at playoff time.

INJURY UPDATE: Rondo (right hand) is out.

PRESSURE IS ON: Boston. All the Celtics have done is ensure the series goes back to their floor.


Clippers at Jazz, Los Angeles leads 2-1. Game 4, 9 p.m., TNT.

NEED TO KNOW: Gordon Hayward broke out for 40 points on Friday night, and the Clippers won anyway. George Hill added 26 for Utah, but Jazz bigs Derrick Favors and Boris Diaw were total non-factors - five points and four shots in 62 minutes. Paul was magnificent, and even without Griffin the Clippers outrebounded Utah 23-11 in the second half.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Clippers F Marreese Speights. He was plus-12 Friday, and now with Griffin done the Clippers will need him.

INJURY UPDATE: Griffin (right big toe) is out. The status of Gobert (left knee) is unclear.

PRESSURE IS ON: Utah. The Jazz have dropped their last five home playoff games going back to 2010.


AP Sports Writers Michael Marot and Andrew Seligman, and Associated Press Writer Corey Elliot contributed.