CLEVELAND -- There was little time for the Cleveland Cavaliers to rest over the summer, and that was a very good thing.
The Cavaliers went to and won Game 7 over the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, and in doing so, claimed their first-ever league championship, which broke a 52-year major sports championship for Cleveland.
And just over four months after winning the championship, the Cavaliers begin pursuit of their second NBA title tonight at Quicken Loans Arena where they host the New York Knicks in the regular-season opener after receiving their rings and raising a banner to the rafters.
Although it took a while to reach contract extensions with several players, the Cavaliers have most of the key pieces back from their championship team, most notably small forward and Finals MVP LeBron James and shooting guard J.R. Smith.
In the championship-clinching Game 7 victory, James scored a team-best 27 points, and in leading the Cavaliers to their first NBA title, he earned his third Finals MVP Award, which is tied for the second-most in league history.
Despite making only nine of his 24 attempts from the field and just one of his five three-point shots in the close-out win, James finished off a triple-double with the 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to go along with three blocked shots and two steals.
In the best-of-seven series, James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists, to go along with 2.3 blocks and 2.6 steals over 42 minutes per game. James converted 49.4 percent of his attempts from the field and 37.1 percent of his three-point tries.
Throughout the championship run, James averaged 26.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists, along with 1.3 blocks and 2.3 steals over 39.1 minutes of play. While his minutes, points, rebounds and assists decreased from the playoffs in 2015 to 2016, James improved his offensive efficiency, as he knocked down 52.5 percent of his shots from the field and 34 percent of his three-point attempts.
During the regular season, James averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.4 steals over 76 games for the Cavaliers. He converted 52 percent of his looks from the field and 73.1 percent of his attempts from the free-throw line.
In his previous two years with the Cavaliers, Smith averaged 12.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals over 31.1 minutes per game. In 123 regular-season games in Cleveland, Smith has converted 41.9 percent of his field goal attempts and 39.6 percent of his three-point tries, all while improving his play on the defensive end of the floor and becoming the type of teammate James has embraced.
During the 2016 playoffs, Smith averaged 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.2 steals over 34.8 minutes in 21 games. Smith converted 43.6 percent of his looks from the field and 43 percent of his three-point tries, including two in the third quarter of the Cavaliers’ 93-89 Game 7 win over the Warriors in The Finals.
With his family as motivation, Smith averaged 10.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals during The Finals. He scored in double figures in each of the last five games, including 12 points in the clinching victory despite being tasked with defending Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson for the entire series.
After averaging better than 26.3 points per game in the first three rounds of the playoffs, Thompson was held to just 19.6 against Smith and the Cavaliers.