CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers began the 2017 NBA Playoffs with a 109-108 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the opening round at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday.
Despite having a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers had to mount a late comeback and closed the game on a 6-3 run, but to their on-court leader, LeBron James, seeing the team find a way to win was a good sign.
“I’m happy we got the victory,” James said. “I’m happy with how emotional we were. I’m happy with the energy and the effort. We played with energy and effort the whole night. They made some big shots. They made some big plays, so I’m excited about that.”
Including the one-point win over the Pacers, James’ teams are now 12-0 in opening-round Game 1 matchups, and that is a good sign for the Cavaliers. James’ teams have never lost an opening-round series in the playoffs.
“Game 1 has always been a feel-out game for myself,” James said. “Seeing what you can do, seeing ways you can get better, you always go into Game 2 even more prepared because you see what type of gameplan they have, so as the series goes on, you start to learn more and more about the team, more about your opponent and try to be better the next game. It’s a great start for us.”
Following a missed three-point attempt from James, the Pacers had 20 seconds to get a potential game-winning shot.
However, the Cavaliers pressured the ball out of the hands of small forward Paul George, which forced reserve forward C.J. Miles to attempt an off-balance 14-foot shot from the left side of the floor to steal a Game 1 win on the road.
“We executed our defensive play,” James said. “They made some big shots. Offensively, we kind of got a little stagnant, started playing a little bit of isolation, which we’re very good at, but no matter what happened, we came out with the win. In a series, I think you get better with time. You see what teams are capable of, what they want to do, what we want to do and how we can be successful at both ends.”
And by coming out of Game 1 with a victory, James is confident the Cavaliers will make the necessary improvements after getting a better understanding of the level of competition a defending NBA Champion faces when pushing toward a second straight title.
“Every day is a learning experience,” James said. “Even though we had a very successful postseason last year, it doesn’t matter. You can take things from it, but you apply right now. We’re going against a very good opponent in Indiana, who had the Coach of the Month, and Paul George was the Player of the Month, so we have to understand that.
“We have to understand the competition, understand that no matter who we play, they’re going to give us their best shot. Coach Lue and our coaching staff will give us a great gameplan. It’s up to us to go out and execute it.”