CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers have been out of game action for 10 days since closing out their second straight four-game sweep in the 2017 NBA Playoffs by dispatching of the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
But that layoff comes to an end tonight, as the Cavaliers will start their third straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden in Boston against the East’s No. 1 seed, the Celtics, in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
“We put in a lot of work these last few days, and it’ll be exciting to get back onto the court,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “We’re playing against a worthy opponent, great coaching staff, great players, and we look forward to the challenge.
“At the end of the day, the Celtics are our opponent, and they’re a worthy opponent. We have to game plan every game. We have to game plan for what they bring to the table, and we have to mentally focus in on our challenges that we have every game.”
During the regular season, the Cavaliers won three of their four games against the Celtics, including a 114-91 victory at TD Garden on April 5. Maligned for their play throughout the month of March and beginning of April, the Cavaliers converted 43 of their 92 attempts, including 11 three-point attempts, and 17 of their 18 free throws in the lopsided win.
The Cavaliers held a 51-38 advantage in rebounds, handed out 19 assists against 10 turnovers, stole seven passes and blocked five shots on the way to the dominating victory, but that is of little consequence to James as he gets set to play in his seventh straight Eastern Conference Finals series.
“Two different teams,” James said. “We’re a totally different team, and they’re a totally different team at this point, so I take nothing from it.
“We’ve been focused this whole week. We got a couple days off Monday and Tuesday after we clinched against Toronto, but since then, we’ve been putting in work, mentally and physically. As far as our mental side, I’m not worried about that. It’s the rhythm. It’ll be 10 days since we’ve played a game. The rhythm is something that you’ll see if we still have it, but as far as mentally, we’re focused.”
And no one knows better than Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue what a focused and prepared James can do for a team. When Lue was an assistant with the Celtics, James led the Miami Heat to a come-from-behind victory in Game 6 in Boston and the series-clinching win in Miami in Game 7.
“We had the momentum coming back home up, 3-2, having a chance to close them out,” Lue said. “We played a great series, and we thought we had a chance to win that series.
“LeBron came in and had 45 points. I think he made six threes, and he was just determined that he wasn’t going to let his team lose. He won the game, and then, went to Miami in Game 7 and they closed us out.”
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