CLEVELAND -- Behind a stout effort from LeBron James and career playoff highs from Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, the Cleveland Cavaliers fought their way to a 117-104 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden in Boston Wednesday night.
And because they won Game 1, the Cavaliers are expecting the Celtics to redouble their efforts and bring another level of intensity into Game 2 tonight.
“I know I’ll be fighting for my life, so I would expect the same thing from the other team,” Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving said.
“We don’t take anything for granted. We understand it’s one game, and we’ve got to come out in Game 2 with an even higher expectancy for what they’re going to throw at us. I know Brad’s going to make some adjustments. He’s an incredible coach, so we’ve just got to be prepared for that.”
Despite a 10-day layoff since closing out the Toronto 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.
“That’s just who we are,” Irving said. “We’re going to come out and really just take it to anybody. When you have special players and the veterans on our team that fill just incredible roles and are just selfless all the time, it makes our job as professionals to go out there and play as one.”
The Cavaliers built a 30-19 lead over the Celtics after the first quarter in Game 1.
Despite missing all five of their looks from three-point range, the Cavaliers knocked down 13 of their 17 attempts from inside the arc, including a seven-of-eight showing from James, who scored a game-high 15 points in the first quarter.
Additionally, the Cavaliers held a 15-4 edge in rebounds, including a 5-2 advantage on the offensive glass.
“It was good to be back out there, just getting back to our routine, getting back to what we do best, and that’s playing at a very high level,” Irving said. “We’ve been excited about the Eastern Conference Finals for a while now.
“That’s a great team in the other locker room and we understand that, so we just wanted to come out with a very aggressive mindset from the start, keep a high level of pace and compete on the defensive end.”
When the Celtics made a run and chipped away at the Cavaliers’ advantage, Irving and James huddled with their teammates, and the message worked well as they responded by ratcheting up the intensity on both sides of the floor and closing out the victory.
Irving believes that intensity is exactly what the Cavaliers will need to have if they hope to claim a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“We understand the goal that’s at hand,” Irving said. “We have to accomplish every, single game, and we don’t want to take any minute or any moment for granted.
“That’s a great team down there that can get going at any time, so we just stay locked in and that moment to moment matters, defensively and offensively. We’ve got to execute, and that’s what the championship teams do.”