Hard work during layoff pays off for Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers did not look like a team that had 10 days off between the second and third rounds of the 2017 NBA Playoffs when they took on the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden Wednesday night.
Despite a 10-day hiatus since sweeping their way past the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Cavaliers showed little signs of rust against the Celtics and used a strong start in the first half to propel them to a 117-104 victory.
“We put in a lot of work,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “We put in a lot of work. Coach gave us a couple days off after we closed the series in Toronto, but after that, we've been on the practice court or in the weight room training as if we were playing.
“There's no way you can substitute a game. We all know that, but the work that we put in this week, we just tried to be as up to speed as possible when the game did come. (It) was just another opportunity for us to implement our scheme. Our coaching staff gave us a great gameplan, and it was up to us to go out and execute it.”
Behind a stout effort from James and career playoff highs from forward Kevin Love and center Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers built a lead as large as 28 points in the second half and got their first wire-to-wire victory this postseason.
Although the Cavaliers had a long layoff since closing out the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, James, Love and Thompson combined to score 90 points, pull down 30 rebounds and steal five passes in the lopsided victory.
“I think it's the mindset that you have to have when you go on the road for a Game 1,” James said. “You can't start the game off lax or shooting a bunch of jump shots. That's my mindset. We've got guys that can shoot the heck out of a ball, and obviously, Kev showed that.
“For myself, I have to be in attack mode and just put the pressure on the defense and see what happens. I was able to do that and kind of just set the tone early on what we needed to do. Once I started to see the defense start to crack in, then I started to find my shooters.”
James led the way with 38 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals over 42 minutes. James finished the game plus-16, the second-best margin of the game.
It was James’ seventh straight playoff game with at least 30 points. The last time that feat was accomplished was by Shaquille O’Neal during the 2002-2003 season.
But James believes there is far more the Cavaliers can do to be successful on the court.
“I don't even think we played that great,” James said. “We definitely didn't shoot the ball as well as we're capable of shooting. I know Kyle had three or four very, very good looks that he missed when we had a good stretch, but I think the energy and the effort and the mindset was where it needed to be starting on the road, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals.”