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NBA Previews from The Sports Network

Sunday, April 26 (All times Eastern)


( - The Cleveland Cavaliers will go a for a sweep against the Boston Celtics Sunday afternoon when the two teams tangle at TD Bank Garden in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The Cavs are up 3-0, but all three games have been competitive, including Thursday's 103-95 victory in Game 3, also in Boston.

"This was not an easy game and honestly, none of the three games have been easy," Cleveland coach David Blatt said. "They have been playing us tough, as it should be in the playoffs."

LeBron James had 31 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 2-seeded Cleveland. James was awesome, but the third member of the Big Three, Kevin Love, played a gigantic role in the victory.

Love, playing in the postseason for the first time, added 23 points and nine rebounds. He made six 3-pointers, including two in the final 2 1/2 minutes as the Celtics tried to scrape their way back into it.

He had 12 points in the first half after scoring 13 in all of Game 2, which the Cavs won 99-91 on Tuesday.

"Kevin has been great overall," said Blatt. "He didn't score as much in the second game as he did tonight, but he's been engaged. I haven't seen any nervousness and discomfort since the series began."

J.R. Smith chipped in 15 points, Kyrie Irving scored 13 and Tristan Thompson had 12 for the Cavs.

The Cavs led most of the game -- including the entire second half -- but spent nearly all of it trying to shake the Celtics for good.

After James' fastbreak dunk gave them a seven-point lead in the third quarter, Boston cut it to one. Cleveland extended it to 11 and the Celtics scored eight of the next 10 points.

It was an eight-point margin going into the fourth and grew to 11 again, but still the Celtics wouldn't go away. Evan Turner's open straightaway 3-pointer got them within three, but Love was even more wide open at the other end, taking his time to line up a 3 he made from the left wing. Later, his sixth 3 of the game stretched the lead to eight with just 26.7 seconds remaining.

"We have to play better basketball," said Brad Stevens, the 38-year-old Boston coach who picked up a couple of first-place votes on ballots for NBA Coach of the Year. "I don't mean to sound that general and I'm sorry I do, but we have to play better basketball at both ends."

Turner led the Celtics with 19 points, Avery Bradley scored 18 and Jae Crowder added 16 off the bench.

No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit.

Game 5, if necessary, will be Tuesday night in Cleveland.


( - The defending champion San Antonio Spurs will shoot for a commanding lead Sunday afternoon when they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to the AT&T Center for Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

The Spurs lead 2-1 after an overtime road win in Game 2 in LA, then an impressive home showing Friday night in San Antonio. The Spurs demolished the Clips, 100-73.

Kawhi Leonard picked up his Defensive Player of the Year award before the game, then showed everyone why he's going to be a wealthy young man this summer. The free agent-to-be showed his incredible all-around game with a career-high 32 points in less than 29 minutes and he anchored an incredible defensive effort.

Leonard showcased his two-way dominance from the opening tip. He finished 13- of-18 shooting with three steals and two blocks, playing less than two minutes in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.

"He puts the effort in, he puts the work in," said Tim Duncan. "I think he came out here tonight to say he's more than just a defender."

Boris Diaw chipped in 15 points and six rebounds off the bench to make up for the relative lack of production from Duncan, who scored 28 points to carry the Spurs to their overtime win in Game 2. The two-time MVP was quiet in this one, netting just four points on 2-of-6 shooting.

The Clippers, who shot 34.1 percent as a team, finished with a playoff franchise low in points and field goal percentage.

Blake Griffin was the lone bright spot with 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Chris Paul was limited to seven points and committed six turnovers, but perhaps the bigger issue for LA was the lack of production from its reserves. Jamal Crawford's 1-for-11 highlighted an abysmal night for the Clippers reserves, who contributed just 30 points on 41 shots.

Leonard finished the first half with 16 points, none bigger than his one- handed alley-oop on a feed from Danny Green. That flush highlighted a 9-0 run, which Leonard capped with his coast-to-coast layup.

The Spurs led 46-38 at halftime and looked to put the game away early in the third. Leonard took it upon himself to make sure that was the case. He scored 11 on 5-of-5 shooting in less than five minutes out of the break. His triple at 7:23 capped a 13-5 push that made it 59-43.

"Kawhi jumped on us," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. "I thought he, at the start of the third quarter, changed the game."

The Spurs have won 10 in a row at home, but are a championship team which stays grounded.

"They couldn't throw it in the ocean tonight, and we were hotter than heck," said Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. "But it doesn't mean anything."

Game 5 will be Tuesday night back in Los Angeles.


( - The Washington Wizards will try to sweep the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors out of the playoffs Sunday when the two teams clash in Game 4 at the Verizon Center.

No team in NBA history has squandered a 3-0 series lead. The Wizards haven't swept a postseason series since the first round back in 1982 when they defeated the Nets, 2-0. Back then, it was a best-of-three opening round.

After taking the first two in Toronto, the Wizards responded with a 106-99 win in D.C. Friday night.

Paul Pierce showed exactly why the young Wizards brought in the future Hall of Famer.

Pierce scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter -- including a couple of clutch 3-pointers -- to help the Wizards to the victory.

Terrence Ross' 3-pointer tied the game for Toronto at 88-88 prior to Otto Porter answering at the other end with a trey. Washington led by two with just over 2 1/2 minutes left and Porter buried another triple before Pierce canned one from beyond the arc for a 98-90 lead.

"You're not playing against chopped liver. Paul Pierce has won an NBA championship," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

The margin was six when Ross picked off an errant pass by Porter and Kyle Lowry finished at the other end with a runner. Following two free throws from Pierce, Lowry quickly knocked down a contested 3-pointer that cut the Raptors' deficit to three.

Toronto chose not to foul and let the Wizards play out their possession. But Pierce delivered the dagger with a hesitated 3 with 16.9 seconds left.

"Otto hit two big ones and Paul's two (3-pointers) at the end were huge. That's why we brought him here. He's not scared of the moment," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

Marcin Gortat had 24 points with 13 rebounds, John Wall contributed 19 points and 15 assists and Bradley Beal added 16 points for Washington.

DeMar DeRozan scored 22 of his playoff career-high 32 in the first half to lead the Raptors, who had won three straight in Washington. Amir Johnson finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.

Lowry, who fouled out in Game 1 and left Game 2 with an ankle injury, scored 15 points on 5-of-22 shooting and dished out seven assists.

"From the start of the game to the end of the game I thought our guys competed. Of course, at the end of the game (the Wizards) made some big plays," Casey said.

The Raptors haven't advanced in the playoffs since 2001. Unless they can buck years of history, they are headed for a second consecutive playoff elimination, despite being a higher seed. In 2014, the Raptors lost a Game 7 in Toronto to the Nets.

Washington could be headed to the second round as a five seed for the second straight year. Last season, they knocked off the Chicago Bulls in five games.

If necessary, though, Game 5 would be Wednesday night in Toronto.


( - The Houston Rockets will try for a sweep of their Texas rivals, the Dallas Mavericks, when the two meet Sunday night at American Airlines Center in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

The Rockets have built a 3-0 series lead with a pair of home wins and an entertaining victory in Big D Friday night. Houston prevailed in Game 3, 130-128, in a game dominated by offense and superstars.

James Harden and Dwight Howard set playoff career highs on Friday night and the Rockets needed every bit of their production.

Harden netted 42 points, Howard snatched 26 rebounds and the Rockets can go for their first sweep in the postseason since 1997 when they eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves in three games. First-round series were five games back then. Houston hasn't advanced in the playoffs since a six-game victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round in 2009.

No team has squandered a 3-0 lead in NBA history.

After Harden found a huge crease along the left wing, he slashed through it and layed the ball in for a three-point play and a 127-123 Houston lead with 56.8 seconds left.

Dirk Nowitzki exhibited a nice use of the pump fake and was fouled on a right wing 3-pointer at the other end before sinking all three free throws.

Harden then knocked down a step-back left elbow jumper over Tyson Chandler which bounced in and out, ricocheted off the glass and rattled in to put Houston up 129-126 with 12.9 ticks to play.

"I was reading his feet and he was looking for the drive," Harden said. "I gave him a step-back."

Monta Ellis answered by lofting a high-arching floater high off the glass and over the outstretched arms of Josh Smith and Corey Brewer split a pair of foul shots at the other end with seven ticks on the clock.

Ellis, though, couldn't come through as his jumper from the top of the key over Smith was nowhere close to the rim and bounced off the right side of the backboard.

"We didn't get a great shot on it so that's on me," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.

The MVP candidate Harden was 15-of-24 from the floor, knocked down 5-of-7 from beyond the arc and sunk all seven of his free throws. He had connected on just 9-of-28 shots from the field over the first two games of this set.

"They were giving me lanes and letting me be aggressive," Harden said.

Smith scored 18 points and Howard added 13 for the Rockets. Eleven of Howard's rebounds came on the offensive glass and helped Houston rack up a 28-15 edge in second-chance points.

"I just tried getting all the rebounds," Howard said. "The one thing I can always control is the paint."

Nowitzki and Ellis each poured in 34 points for Dallas, which played without Rajon Rondo after he sustained a back injury in Game 2.

Carlisle announced Wednesday that he didn't think Rondo would play for Dallas again. This came after Rondo didn't play nearly the entire second half of Game 2.

Game 5, if needed, will be in Houston on Tuesday night.

04/26 10:37:09 ET

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