Wrap-Up -- After an eight-day layoff following their recent sweep of Atlanta, there was some concern that the Cavaliers would come out rusty against Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals – and those concerns were immediately proven correct.
For exactly one minute and 49 seconds.
That’s when the Cavaliers – trailing 8-0 to start the affair – kicked the machine right back into gear and proceeded to steamroll the Raptors in Game 1, running their record to 9-0 in the 2016 postseason with the 115-84 drubbing of Toronto on Tuesday night at The Q, the most-lopsided victory in franchise history.
The Cavaliers didn’t bombard the Raptors from beyond the arc – their formula for success through the first two rounds. Instead, Cleveland went with the ground game, netting 56 points in the paint, shooting 55 percent from the floor and hitting only seven triples on the night.
Even with their slow start, the Cavaliers proceeded to shoot 67 percent from the field in the first half, outscoring the Raptors, 33-16, in the second quarter and opening a 22-point edge by intermission.
In what was billed as a battle between two of the Eastern Conference’s top point guards – Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry – the Wine and Gold’s three-time All-Star stole the show, leading all scorers with 27 points in the win.
Irving was razor-sharp from the opening tip and notched 12 of his 27 in the first quarter, going 5-of-7 from the floor in the period. Consistently penetrating the Raptors’ interior defense, Kyrie shot 11-for-17 from the field overall, adding a team-high five assists to go with two boards, two steals and a pair of blocked shots.
”I think that we were getting to our sweet spots as much as possible and the play calls by Coach Lue were great coming out of timeouts,” said Irving. “And coming out of those timeouts we knew what we wanted to run and we played at an unbelievable place. I flipped two easy buckets in transition that got us into a great rhythm.”
His counterpart had a much more difficult evening, with the Cavaliers holding Lowry – who combined for 71 points in the last two games of Toronto’s Second Round series against the Heat – to just eight points on Tuesday, going 4-for-14 from the floor, including 0-of-7 from long-range.
LeBron James had been in all-business mode in the days leading up to Game 1 and never broke stride after tip-off – hitting his first nine shots of the game – all from point-blank range – and finishing 11-of-13 from the floor for 24 points.
James – whose massive second-quarter dunk over DeMarre Carroll prompted the game’s greatest reaction, an extended roar to the frenzied crowd – topped the 20-point mark for the 19th straight postseason game, longest active streak in the NBA. The four-time MVP added six boards, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot in the win.
View game stats.
View photos from The Q.
LBJ with the monster slam.
Watch final game highlights.
”I think for us, our game plan is never dictated,” said James. “I think for us, we want to push the tempo, we want to move the ball from side to side, and we want to attack. With myself and Ky, we love to live in the paint; we love to attack.
“And then when the defense collapses, we're going to spread out to our shooters. Tonight (Toronto) wanted us to be in the paint, and we just tried to take advantage of that.”
Kevin Love rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures with 14 points, although Tuesday marked the end of his string of postseason double-doubles at eight – snagging four boards to go with three assists and a steal.
”(The Raptors) are a team that’s battle tested; they’re well coached, but also have logged a lot of minutes this postseason with two series going to a Game 7,” said Love. “We definitely wanted to push the ball and we felt like if we did that, then we could get our threes and also get to the free throw line.”
Along with every starter other than Tristan Thompson, Love was able to take the fourth quarter off as Cleveland’s reserves took over. But the Cavs second unit had come up big long before garbage time.
Richard Jefferson barely missed a double-double, finishing with nine points and a game-high 11 boards – the same amount as Toronto’s five combined starters. Matthew Dellavedova added nine points of his own, going 3-of-4 from the floor. Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye each added eight points and three boards in the victory.
After the Raptors’ opening salvo, the Cavaliers were stingy on the defensive end all night – holding the Raptors to 21 percent shooting from deep and keeping them below the 90-point mark, a first for Cleveland in the 2016 Playoffs.
The Cavaliers completely dominated Toronto on the boards, 45-23, and outpaced them on the break, 16-7, and in second-chance scoring, 13-4. Cleveland also made 13 more trips to the line on Tuesday night.
Turning Point -- After erasing Toronto’s early seven-point edge, it was all Wine and Gold for the game’s next 46 minutes. And it was the decisive second quarter that set that avalanche in motion.
The Cavaliers began the period leading by five, 33-28, but tings spiraled quickly from there – with Channing Frye and Matthew Dellavedova canning back-to-back triples with the second unit. By the time Iman Shumpert crushed home a right-handed dunk with 6:55 remaining in the quarter to cap a 16-2 run, the Cavs had run their lead to 19 points.
Cleveland improved its advantage to 22 points by intermission and upped it to as much as 35 points late in the fourth.
In the Cavaliers two losses at the Air Canada Centre this season, they’ve lost by an average of 3.0 points. In Toronto’s two losses at The Q this year, Cleveland has won by an average of 26.5.
By the Numbers – 2 … teams in NBA history that have started the postseason with a 9-0 record while topping the century mark in each contest – the 1982 Los Angeles Lakers and the current Cavaliers.
Quotable – Coach Tyronn Lue, on the Cavaliers’ basic offensive gameplan against Toronto …
”We just take what the defense gives us. If they open up the paint, we’re going to drive and attack the basket. If not, then we've got to be able to step up and knock down the threes.”
Up Next – After taking Game 1 of the Conference Finals in convincing fashion, the Wine and Gold welcome the Raptors back for Game 2 on Thursday night at The Q. The series then shifts north of the border, where the East’s top two seeds will match up on Saturday night and Monday night – both contests at 8:30 p.m. ET. If necessary, the series then alternates for Games 5 through 7 – with Game 5 set for next Wednesday in Cleveland, Game 6 slated for next Friday night in Toronto and Game 7 back at Quicken Loans Arena next Sunday.