CLEVELAND -- LeBron James believes the Cleveland Cavaliers are capable of better play and more impressive performances, especially after the struggles they faced in a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
But after a 116-105 win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena Monday night, James expressed confidence in the direction of the team.
“I’m okay with where we’re headed,” James said. “I’m not pleased, I’m not satisfied because it’s still so early, but at the end of the day, I feel like we’re making progress and being the team that we want to become. (It) was another step in the right direction.
“We’re doing what we need to do. The gameplan that our coaches are giving us, we’re executing it, so that’s letting me know we’re moving in the right direction, and if we just keep doing that every game, we’ll be a very good team.”
Always the perfectionist, James felt there were times when the Cavaliers needed to step up defensively, specifically when the Raptors made a second-quarter charge that cut the double-digit lead down to just two points.
“There were a couple plays where we gave up shots and nobody was around to contest,” James said. “I know there’s a couple of Serge shots, a couple of P.J. Tucker shots, a couple Norman Powell shots where guys were just not around.
“We can’t have that if we want to continue to be as great as we want to become. I like the direction we’re headed in.”
Point guard Kyrie Irving said sometimes, the plans are not going to look perfect when they are executed, but that by pushing the pace of play and giving teammates open looks by attracting added defensive players, the Cavaliers could be in good shape in the best-of-seven series.
“So many mistakes happen out there, and our job as basketball players is to not only put the ball in the hoop, but make our teammates better, make sure we’re there on our defensive executions and make sure we’re all dialed in,” Irving said.
After the Cavaliers sunk 14 of their 34 three-point attempts (41.2 percent), held a 46-43 edge in rebounds, committed only four turnovers over the first three quarters of play and registered 26 assists on 39 made baskets, Irving is confident the team is in “a great place.”
“Sometimes, it’s not going to look perfect, but for us, if we play at a high level for a consistent amount of time and we wear on the team, I feel like we’re in a great place,” Irving said. “When the ball’s moving and guys are being aggressive, there’s no questions about the moves guys are making or the shots guys are taking.
“We’re all just trusting one another, and the basketball gods end up being in our favor. We’re playing at an incredibly high level. There are some things we can still get better at, but we’re getting there. We’re getting there. We know the ultimate goal. We know what we want to attain, and we understand that every step and every game is a step closer to that goal. Never take any wins for granted.”
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