When LeBron James left South Beach to return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers and form his latest Big Three with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, he promised the city that its decades-long, agony-inducing championship drought would come to an end.
With two convincing, multiple-record-breaking sweeps over the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds, and plenty of rest going into the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron is once again just eight wins away from delivering for Cleveland.
Just weeks ago in the regular season, there was little faith the Cavs could contend with whatever team came out of the Western Conference. Let’s take a look back at the first two playoff series and examine how far they’ve come in such a short time by looking at the team’s Twitter mentions.
April 17 – Game 1, Detroit Pistons @ Cleveland
The Cavaliers see a 106-101 win, one of the closest games of their entire postseason. The Pistons come out strong and are generally pleased with their performance. This activity represents the first major spike in the team’s Twitter mentions since April 13. The previous peak may have been associated with the Cavs’ 14th annual fan appreciation night on the 13th, which could have increased hits for the hashtags #AllForFans and #CavPistons across all social media platforms.
April 20 – Game 2, Detroit Pistons @ Cleveland
The Cavs’ 107-90 win over Pistons marks their 3-pointer postseason streak; they put up 38 attempts and break their own NBA playoff record of 20.
Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson says about LeBron before Game 2: “I’m definitely in his head. That’s for sure.” Big mistake.
LeBron takes over. The youthful Johnson’s guarding was no match for LeBron’s force. LeBron backs down, spins around, and dunks on Johnson after receiving a push in the back. Cleveland fans roar as LeBron and Johnson compete in a rookie-veteran showdown.
According to ESPN, James was 6-for-6 against Johnson as his primary defender in Game 2.
The young Pistons don’t take the loss lightly and refuse once again to back down. Johnson again has strong words for the Cavs afterward.
This rookie-veteran face-off creates a ton of buzz on Twitter. With fans on both sides of the spectrum throwing in their two cents, Twitter sees a slight spike in Cav-related mentions.
Late in Game 2, when it’s all but over, James takes a hit by Marcus Morris’s elbow. There’s a viral video – what LeBron video isn’t viral? – of James taking issue and mouthing a threat.
“There hasn’t been one dirty play in the series,” James says postgame. “I will make sure my guys understand that we’re here to play basketball, everything else is irrelevant. There’s a video here, a video there – means absolutely nothing. I took a shot, but I’m OK, I’m still standing tall.”
April 22 – Game 3, Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit
The Cavs bring a 101-91 win, continuing their hot-shooting beyond the arc and toying with a small-ball lineup. They are possibly eyeing a series with the Golden State Warriors, some experts posit. With a struggling Timofey Mozgov, LeBron plays the 4 and Love plays a stretch 5.
The big win brings the fan excitement to Twitter. This causes one of the largest spikes in mentions throughout this series. The fans are ready for a sweep after the big win, and they make sure that Detroit fans understand this as they create noise on social media.
April 24 – Game 4, Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit
The Cavs clinch the sweep over Pistons with a 100-98 win. It’s easily the most contested game of the series.
Irving angers some and excites others on social media by literally waving goodbye to Pistons fans from the court as time ticks away. These reactions influence the number of mentions on Twitter for not only Kyrie but the team as well. Kyrie dominates, scoring 31 in the game and 110 in the series.
The Cavs’ win streak over the Pistons in the playoffs is at 12.
May 2 – Game 1, Atlanta Hawks @ Cleveland
The Cavs easily bring home a 104-93 win. The Hawks are somewhat content with the game in their postgame comments. Their comments are eerily similar to that of the Pistons: They credit the Cavs’ shooting and vow to do better. Kevin Love tweaks his right shoulder but says he’s fine; his later play proves this is true.
May 3 – Off-Day Shoot Around for Cavs
Rumors fly over “Space Jam 2,” a sequel to the popular Warner Bros. film that featured Michael Jordan and a handful of other ex-NBA players. None other than The King – the newest number 23 – may reprise Jordan’s heroic role.
On this day, social media buzzes once again that James will take the “Space Jam” torch. The newest wrinkle in the rumors? Some – poking fun at LeBron’s perceived tendency to join forces with great players, not necessarily lead lesser players to greatness – say that he may be playing with the alien squad in the remake!
For his part, LeBron says: “My team is handling that, and I’m not going to take my focus off what my job is right now and that’s being in the postseason.”
His team “handling it” is the most concrete confirmation of the project to date.
May 4 – Game 2, Atlanta Hawks @ Cleveland
Cavs absolutely dominate, in record-setting fashion, with a 123-98 win.
Draining the most single game 3-pointers in NBA history, regular or postseason, the Cavs hit 25 triples.
J.R. Smith makes seven 3-pointers during the game, as the Cavs, resembling an Eastern Conference version of Golden State, have the most prolific outside-shooting game of any team in league history.
Postgame, LeBron James struggles to explain it, beyond acknowledging that it has been a concerted effort this postseason to shoot more from beyond the arc.
“Tonight was a special night for all of us who played,” James says; he was a spectator the entire fourth quarter. “This league has seen so many great teams, so many great players and great shooters and for us to set an all-time record is truly special.”
Some on social media, and players in the Hawks’ locker room, bash the Cavs for “running up the score,” but all starters had exited by the middle of the third quarter.
Cleveland still ends the night 25 of 45 from deep and has 10 players make at least one 3-pointer.
Social media users may think there’s something in the water. Many note that even the team mascot, Moondog, drained an over-the-head, backward heave from half court on his first try as the game wound down.
May 6 – Game 3, Cleveland Cavaliers @ Atlanta
Cavs win yet another blowout: 121-108. Channing Frye turns in his best career postseason game, hitting 7 of 9 shots from deep.
The stretch-big pours in 27 total points, and with every piece of the puzzle seemingly fitting to perfection, LeBron says after the game, “This is a team that is destined for greatness … We brought him here to shoot. And shoot and shoot and shoot.”
After hitting an NBA-record 25 3-pointers in Game 2, the Cavs hit 21 in Game 3. Frye tells reporters after the game the advice teammate James Jones gave him: “Channing, you’ve got to stop passing. You’re not very good [at it]. You’ve just got to shoot it.”
As the clock winds down, Hawks point guard Jeff Teague lets his frustration get the best of him; he draws a flagrant for shoving James into the crowd following a contested layup.
May 8 – Game 4, Cleveland Cavaliers @ Atlanta
The Cavs see a 100-99 win in a tightly contested matchup, again mirroring the Pistons’ series, with the best game moment coming when Cleveland’s opponent has their backs to the wall.
The Big Three combine for 69 points. Playing just four games, the Cavs hit 77 3-pointers in the series. They tie for second-most all-time in a postseason series.
It’s by far the most for a 4-game set. The most ever for a swept series previously was 57 – in the Cavs first-round matchup against the Pistons. Prior to this season, the most was 49, by last year’s Cavs squad.
Again like the Pistons, the Hawks are 0-12 in their last dozen playoff games against the Cavs.
Kevin Love, after cutting a postgame press conference answer short, supplies the most talked about line of the whole series: “Game of Thrones is on tonight. I’m trying to get home to watch that. Jon Snow is back.”
Looking Forward: Eastern Conference Finals
If we’re lucky – and let’s face it, the NBA wants it to from a ratings perspective – we’ll be looking at LeBron returning to South Beach to face his former teammates and coach.
Currently, the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors are embroiled in a tightly contested series, sitting at two wins a piece.
Teams led by James have won 17 straight Eastern Conference playoff series. The last one he lost was the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics.
James has also started 8-0 in the postseason for the second time. He did so the first time back in 2009, his first go-round with the Cavs. He’s the fourth player in NBA history to start 8-0 in multiple postseasons. The other three were teammates with the 1980’s “Showtime” Lakers: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Cooper.
The Cavs Big Three, when all are healthy and on the court in the playoffs, are 12-0.
Continue your support for the Cavaliers by rocking the latest Fanatics gear. Don’t contain the hype! Be sure to post your new apparel on Twitter using the hashtag #CavsNations.
We pulled every mention of the word “Cavaliers” from Twitter between April 12 and May 9 to see when the Cleveland Cavaliers were trending on Twitter.