Cavs put away fighting Pistons by way of sweep, await their next challenger

The Pistons proved to be true fighters. In the end, however, the Cavaliers' experience and overall talent was the deciding factor in the best-of-7 first-round series. After defeating the Pistons on 100-98 Sunday for a clean sweep, Cleveland will have plenty of rest as it awaits the winner of the series between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, which is tied 2-2.

The Pistons faced an uphill battle all series. They were the No. 8 seed and had the insurmountable task of getting four wins against last year's Eastern Conference champions and the East's No. 1 seed this season. Yet this didn't seem to concern the Pistons.

Detroit kept throwing figurative punches all series. Whether it was Stanley Johnson saying he was in LeBron James' head, Stan Van Gundy calling out officials for how the series was being called or Marcus Morris saying they were going to rough up Kevin Love, the Pistons weren't going to go down without a fight. The only problem was the Cavs absorbed every blow the Pistons gave them and countered with haymakers.

A perfect example is the 3-pointer Kyrie Irving buried right in the eye of Reggie Jackson with 42 seconds left in Game 4.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had just hit a big 3 one play before to pull Detroit within one, but Irving quickly delivered another dagger, just like he did in Game 3.

Hitting big 3s and stepping up to the challenges Detroit threw at Cleveland, Irving was masterful in Game 4. For the second time in the series, Irving scored a team-high 31 points (20 in the second half), shooting 12-of-25 from the field, including 4-for-11 from beyond the arc. Irving also dished out five assists and came through in the clutch, not only with his dagger trey but also by making up for a missed shot with excellent defense on Jackson on the game's final possession.

"I just think Kyrie, he's built for these moments," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He didn't play last year for a long stretch of the playoffs and then came in Game 1 of the Finals like he never missed a beat. He relishes these moments. I'm glad to have him."

But it wasn't only Irving that led Cleveland to their series sweep.

Kevin Love recorded 13 points and 11 rebounds. Matthew Dellavedova scored 11 points in less than 15 minutes. J.R. Smith hit five 3-pointers to finish with 15 points. Then there's LeBron James, who had his usual LeBron-esque line with 22 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals.

James has never lost a first-round series. His teams have won 17 consecutive games in the opening round.

Despite getting swept, the Pistons showed something more than the ability to fight. They are a team on the rise in the East. A rise that has come rather quickly since Van Gundy took over last season. In such a short period of time, Van Gundy has turned the bottom-dwelling Pistons into a playoff team with franchise cornerstones in Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. Detroit's rebuild was swift, yet as it showed in this first-round series, it's heading in the right direction. Especially if you consider how the Pistons played the Cavs -- the best team in the East during the regular season -- tight all series long.

"I'm proud of them," Van Gundy said.

Getting through a tough team like Detroit rather quickly is a great confidence booster for the Cavs. After having some inconsistent stretches during the regular season, the Cavs showed why they were the No. 1 seed in this series by sweeping a tough team like the Pistons. Detroit was physical and fought until the final buzzer yet Cleveland just outplayed them each game, playing consistent basketball and getting excellent performances from their Big Three of James, Irving and Love. In the first round, Cleveland's Big 3 combined to score 81, 65, 66 and 64 points in Games 1 through 4, respectively.

Now the Cavs could get more than a week of rest as the Celtics-Hawks series seems very evenly matched and could extend to a Game 7. This would be ideal for the Cavs, especially since James has always had extended seasons in his career, and any opportunity for his body to recuperate will do him good.

But whoever the Cavs end up facing in the next round, they will be ready as they showed they were against the Pistons.

"We have a schedule, we're just going to try and lock in on both teams as a coaching staff." Lue said. "And then try and put our players through both scenarios. We don't know whose going to come out of that. So, just staying prepared for both series and when we figure out the winner, then we will be ready."

Kyrie, LeBron and the Cavs are heading to the second round.
Kyrie, LeBron and the Cavs are heading to the second round. (USATSI) Experts' NBA Playoff predictions












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Eastern Conference First Round
Game Date/Series Location Time TV
Game 1: Cavaliers 106, Pistons 101 Cavs lead 1-0 Quicken Loans Arena 3:00 p.m. ET ABC
Game 2: Cavaliers 107, Pistons 90 Cavs lead 2-0 Quicken Loans Arena 8:00 p.m. ET TNT
Game 3: Cavaliers 101, Pistons 91 Cavs lead 3-0 Palace at Auburn Hills 7:00 p.m. ET ESPN
Game 4: Cavaliers 100, Pistons 98 Cavs win series, 4-0 Palace at Auburn Hills 8:30 p.m. ET TNT
Game 5: N/A Tuesday, April 26 Quicken Loans Arena TBD TBD
Game 6: N/A Thursday, April 28 Palace at Auburn Hills TBD TBD
Game 7: N/A Saturday, April 30 Quicken Loans Arena TBD TBD
CBS Sports Writer

Ananth Pandian has been writing about all NBA-related things including the social and lifestyle aspect of the sport for CBS Sports since 2015. His name is actually easy to pronounce, just remember it is... Full Bio

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