CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers had eight days off between completing the sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs and taking the court at Quicken Loans Arena for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Toronto Raptors Monday night.
But despite the long layoff, the Cavaliers came out firing against the Raptors, and the efficient play on the offensive end of the floor, mixed with aggressiveness on defense, led to a 116-105 victory and 1-0 series lead heading into tonight’s Game 2 matchup.
“I just liked our energy,” LeBron James said. “Our energy was very, very good, and it sustained. That was the mystery because when you have an eight-day layoff, sometimes you can come out with a lot of energy and it can just go away because you’ve been off so long, but for the most part, for the full 48 minutes, we kept that level of intensity up and the level of energy up and it worked in our favor.”
The Cavaliers started the game on a 10-3 run, and used that early momentum to build a 30-18 advantage after the first quarter of play.
Point guard Kyrie Irving led the way with 12 first-quarter points, while James and power forward Kevin Love accounted for six each over the first 12 minutes.
As a team, the Cavaliers knocked down 11 of their first 21 looks from the field, including a four-for-seven showing from three-point range. Conversely, the Raptors connected on seven of their 21 looks in the first quarter.
“The energy was phenomenal,” James said. “We pushed the tempo. We shared the ball. We got to where we wanted to be on the floor. Both offensively and defensively, we executed. A 30-point quarter after an eight-day layoff is a really good quarter, and we held them to 18 as well. It was a great start for us.”
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During the first-quarter run, James got a steal and kicked it out to point guard Kyrie Irving, who drove to the lane and threw the ball off of the backboard back to James for a left-handed throw-down dunk that brought the crowd to its feet and the Raptors to a timeout.
“This is home for us,” James said. “Our fans do a great job of giving us even more extra energy. It is phenomenal. They’re phenomenal for us all the time, and (that) was no different. We definitely fed off them and tried to give them things to cheer for, plays to root for and try to make our fans proud every night we go out on the court.”
The Raptors began the second quarter on a 19-3 run that cut the Cavaliers’ advantage down to a single possession, but they had a response in the form of a 21-10 run of their own to end the first half.
With the strong finish to the second quarter, the Cavaliers took a 62-48 lead over the Raptors into halftime.
The Cavaliers knocked down nine of their 21 looks from three-point range in the first half, with Love, Irving, shooting guard J.R. Smith and reserve guard Kyle Korver each knocking down a pair of shots from long distance. Backup forward Channing Frye buried one of his two looks from three-point range in the half.
“It was very good to see, especially after the layoff,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought guys came out with a mindset of pushing the basketball and a great defensive mindset. We did that early in the game, and we got a big lead and were able to sustain it in the second half. It was just good to get off to a good start, especially when you haven’t played in a while.”