CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers put the eight-day layoff in-between first and second-round series in the 2017 NBA Playoffs to good use by working to refine their skills in advance of a best-of-seven matchup against the Toronto Raptors.
And the early returns on that practice time were positive, as the Cavaliers fought their way to a 116-105 Game 1 victory and their seventh 1-0 lead in eight Eastern Conference series since LeBron James’ return to Cleveland in the summer of 2014.
“I think we practiced more this week than we did in all of March, and March was a heck of a month for us,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “We were on the road a ton, and we didn’t get an opportunity to get out on the floor because of injuries, because of flights, because of being on the road so much. We didn’t get a lot of time to actually put in what we wanted to do to get better as a team.”
The Cavaliers looked as though they put in plenty of work during the break.
As a team, the Cavaliers converted 39 of their 85 looks, including 14 of their 34 three-point tries on the way to building a lead as large as 25 points during the third quarter.
Additionally, the Cavaliers sunk 24 of their 29 free-throw attempts, which, at times, was a struggle for them during the four-game sweep of the Pacers.
“We worked our habits defensively,” James said. “We worked our habits offensively, got some more continuity things put together. We got some great conditioning in as a team, so we did a lot this week because we had the practice time and were home, so it definitely helped us out a lot.”
The Cavaliers are no strangers to long layoffs.
On the way to their first-ever NBA Championship, the Cavaliers had layoffs of nine and eight days in-between the first, second and third rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs, as well as a five-day break ahead of the NBA Finals.
“That was the blueprint for us, sweeping the first two rounds last year and kind of seeing how we took it day by day and what we did,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I pretty much tried to stay the course of what we did last year, and we did that.
“I know it’s tough when you’re not playing and doing conditioning, but it was very important. We had a chance to do a lot of shooting, a lot of free throws, and we did the little things, so we’ve got to continue to grow on that throughout the course of the playoffs.”
Over the course of the break, the Cavaliers did conditioning drills both on the court and in the gym. When the players were not doing conditioning shooting, they were on the VersaClimber working to improve their cardio, which Lue believes is a sign that the team is hungry for more success.
“We won’t relax,” Lue said. “We won’t get comfortable because we know what this team is capable of doing. We won our first two games last year, and went up there and got our butts kicked for two games. We’ve got to stay the course and just be professional about the situation.”