CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving loves to push the pace, and he put that on display in a 116-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena Monday night.
After previously going without an assist in Game 4 against the Indiana Pacers in the first round, Irving handed out a single-game postseason career high 10 playmakers against the Raptors.
“Sometimes, it just happens that way, and to hear that’s the playoff high, obviously, that’s got to change going forward,” Irving said. “I’m just going to go out there and be myself, whether I have zero assists, 10 assists, be aggressive on both ends of the floor and do whatever it takes for my team to win and help my team win.
“There’s no implement for me or focus going in that I need to make more plays or get my teammates involved. I’m going to do that anyway just based on the way I play. Attracting guys off screens when I’m taking two off the basketball, and then, making plays on the backside, sometimes the assists may not fall to me. They may fall to one of my teammates, so I’m fine with that. As long as we all put points on the board and we come out victorious, I’m okay with that.”
PHOTOS: Cleveland Cavaliers face Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
After an eight-day break in-between Game 4 at the Pacers and Game 1 against the Raptors, the Cavaliers came out firing and sharing the basketball.
Led by Irving’s 10 helpers, the Cavaliers had 26 assists on their 39 made baskets.
“We wanted to come out and make a conscious effort to move the basketball, as well as get out in transition, keep the pace up, make them play our game, and then, go from there,” Irving said. “Coach was right. It could’ve gone either way, but I’m glad it went in the direction of us just getting out in transition, getting some easy shots, as well as moving the basketball.”
Irving’s most recognizable assist in Monday’s win came on an alley-oop to small forward LeBron James.
Less than three minutes into 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.
“Just playing with pace I think is the biggest thing,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “When we play with pace, when we get up and down the floor, we’re really tough to beat and we’re pretty effective and very efficient offensively.
“It was a good sign. Kyrie did a great job of having 10 assists and we just moved the basketball.
“We want him to be aggressive. He has to score the basketball, and Toronto played him differently than Indiana did, so he was able to score the basketball, but also, get other guys involved because of the way he was playing. I thought Kyrie did a great job of just taking what the defense gives him.”