Cleveland Cavaliers rough up weary Toronto Raptors in NBA Eastern Conference opener
The Cleveland Cavaliers maintained their 100 per cent post-season record on Tuesday with a crushing 115-84 defeat of the weary Toronto Raptors to take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Kyrie Irving scored 27 points while LeBron James added 24 as the Cavaliers dominated almost from start to finish to the delight of their home fans at the Quicken Loans Arena.
The 31-point rout was Cleveland’s biggest victory in a play-off game.
The Cavaliers went into the game well-rested after wrapping up back-to-back 4-0 sweeps in their opening two post-season series.
Toronto by contrast had been forced to make a quick turnaround after only clinching a 4-3 series victory over the Miami Heat in their conference semi-final on Sunday.
On the evidence of game one, few would bet against James and the Cavaliers making short work of the Raptors.
James attributed the win to Cleveland’s attention to detail.
“It’s our preparation, every single day. We understand the moment that we’re in and the guys are rising to that,” James said.
“The coach is doing a great job of giving us a game plan and we’re just trying to go out and execute.
“We had a couple of mistakes but for the most part our attention to detail was there for all 48 minutes – we’ve got to continue to do that in Game Two.”
James had special praise for teammates Irving and Kevin Love, who have hit prime form during the post-season.
“They waited a full regular season to get back to this moment,” James said.
“Last year Kevin’s moment was cut short because of the shoulder [injury]; Kyrie wasn’t himself last year in post-season because of the knee and all the injuries he had.
“They’ve trained their bodies all season long to get back to this point – those guys are spectacular.”
The outcome of the contest was effectively decided in a devastating period of Cleveland dominance which began late in the first quarter and continued to the half-time buzzer.
A 28-27 Toronto lead with around one minute left on the clock in the first quarter rapidly became a 39-28 lead for Cleveland as they reeled off 12 unanswered points.
The Raptors were always struggling to stay in touch and with Irving, James and Love in form, it rapidly became an exercise in damage limitation for the visitors, playing their 15th game of the post-season.
The Cavs quickly sprinted into a 49-30 lead and although the Raptors hit back to narrow the gap to 54-42, it was only a temporary staunching of the tide.
Cleveland produced another burst of points and by half-time had surged into a 22-point lead at 64-44, Toronto’s woe exacerbated by consecutive air balls to close the half.
The torture continued in the third quarter as the Cavaliers maintained a healthy double-digit lead against a Toronto side unable to find any answers on defence.
James’ buoyant mood was typified by a steal which finished with the two-time NBA champion racing up the court for an emphatic slam dunk to make it 81-56.
It got worse for the Raptors near the end of the third, with the Cavaliers opening up what at that point was the biggest lead of the night, a 28-point margin of 95-67.
That soon became 30 points in the fourth quarter, with Cleveland surging into a 97-67 advantage as the slaughter continued before the score settled at 115-84.
DeMar DeRozan led the scoring for the Raptors with 18 points, but it was a miserable night for Kyle Lowry. The Toronto talisman who excelled against Miami on Sunday finished with only eight points.
Game Two of the series takes place on Thursday in Cleveland.