CLEVELAND -- When the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing at their best, they are communicating at a highly effective level, and that is exactly what was put on display in Monday night’s 116-105 win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena.
And that communication led to a highlight-reel moment from small forward LeBron James that brought about a fever pitch from the crowd and forced the Raptors to burn a timeout early in the first quarter.
“I had seen the play developing, all the way from the defensive side,” James said. “I played the passing lane on a throwback to Serge Ibaka at the top from Kyle Lowry and I was able to get it to Kyrie. I saw Lowry chase Kyrie down, not like he wanted to get the ball from Kyrie, but I think he maybe thought I stopped running.
“When I hit the ball to Kyrie and he kind of looked at me, I told him to throw it off the glass. I pointed to the glass, or you could say I told him to throw it to the sky. I like that better. It’s a little higher than the glass. I train my body every, single day to be in tip-top shape, and I feel real good. I feel real good with where I’m at, and hopefully, I can just continue it.”
After missing their first attempt from the field and watching the Raptors hit a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, the Cavaliers responded with a 10-0 run and never looked back.
James got a steal and kicked it out to point guard Kyrie 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.
“Throw it up there in any vicinity, he’s going to make a play,” Irving said. “That guy’s special. It’s crazy what he can do in the air, and I just distinctively remember him pointing up behind me, and I could’ve easily laid it up, but to throw it off the backboard like that in a playoff game, in a high-intensity game and having the trust between us and him finishing an amazing play like that, it’s just another play in the book for me and ‘Bron on the alley-oop.”
Shooting guard Iman Shumpert added, “Basketball is one of those exciting games where stuff like that can happen. Seeing it during the season, of course you’re reacting crazy, but to see them be bold enough to do something like that during the game was simply amazing.”
The crowd exploded with excitement when James threw down the dunk, and they kept up the energy level with every made basket or defensive stop.
“This is home for us,” James said. “Our fans do a great job of giving us even more extra energy. It is phenomenal.
“They’re phenomenal for us all the time, and tonight was no different. We definitely fed off them and tried to give them things to cheer for, plays to root for and try to make our fans proud every night we go out on the court.”
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