CLEVELAND -- Fresh off of an eight-day break in-between the first two rounds of the postseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers started the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 116-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena Monday night.
From unselfish passing to a dominant performance by small forward LeBron James, the Cavaliers got a little bit of everything in the victory.
Here are five takeaways from the Cavaliers’ victory.
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers face Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
LEBRON CONTINUES TO SHINE ON BIG STAGE
Despite the long layoff since closing out the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on Sunday, April 23, James came out steady and ramped up his performance in the second half in leading the Cavaliers to victory.
James scored a game-high 35 points and finished off a double-double with 10 rebounds over 42 minutes of play. Additionally, James assisted on four baskets, stole one pass and blocked a shot in the winning effort.
James converted 13 of his 23 attempts from the field, including two three-pointers and seven of his eight shots from the free-throw line.
THOMPSON HAS WORKED ON FREE THROWS
Free throws have long been a struggle for Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, as he sunk just 106 of his 213 attempts during the regular season and first-round of the playoffs, and has a .611 career percentage, but that was not the case for the Toronto native against his hometown team.
With the Raptors trying to fight their way back into the game after falling behind by 25 at one point during the third quarter, they utilized a “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy with Thompson, sending him to the line for four free throws.
However, Thompson sunk all four of those free throws and made five of his six attempts from the charity stripe, which quickly made the Raptors rethink their strategy.
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 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 Raptors started 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.
IRVING SPREADS THE WEALTH
As a point guard, Irving is much more than a facilitator who sets up plays for others.
Irving has a penchant for creating highlight-reel plays not only for himself, but also, his teammates, and that is exactly what he did against the Raptors.
In addition to his 24 points, Irving handed out 10 assists, which were a single-game career playoff high in his second-ever postseason double-double.
CAVALIERS KNOW HOW TO HAVE FUN
The Cavaliers are focused on winning their second straight NBA Championship, but in pursuit of their goals, they took some time to have a little fun during the Game 1 victory over Toronto.
After missing their first attempt from the field and watching the Raptors hit the first shot of the game, the Cavaliers responded with a 10-0 run and never looked back.
In the first quarter, James got a steal and kicked it out to Irving, who drove to the lane and threw the ball off of the backboard back to James for the left-handed throw-down dunk that brought the crowd to its feet and the Raptors to a timeout.
In the second half, James was fouled while driving to the basket, and after coming up short of the hoop, he skipped toward the sideline, where a courtside attendant was working. James grabbed the bottle of beer from the attendant, only to find it was already empty.
The replay of James and the attendant gave the 20,562 fans one more reason to cheer and enjoy the lopsided victory.