Cleveland rolled in Game 1 of its second-round series against Toronto.
USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND – Game 1s continue to be a problem for the Toronto Raptors.
The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Raptors 116-105 on Monday, handing Toronto its 10th consecutive Game 1 loss, including seven in a row under Coach Dwane Casey since 2014.
Cleveland’s Big Three scored 77 points – 35 for LeBron James, 24 for Kyrie Irving and 18 for Kevin Love.
James scored 30 or more points in a playoff game for the 88th time and is just 25 points from passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for No. 2 on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.
He also had 10 rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. James made it look easy, even grabbing a beer bottle from a courtside server on the sideline and pretending he was going to take a sip.
Irving added 10 assists, Love had 10 rebounds, and Tristan Thompson had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
That week off between the end of the first round and start of the Eastern Conference semifinals helped the Cavaliers as it did between playoff rounds last season.
“We’ve been preparing all week, but once the game starts we’ll see if we can translate all the preparation that we’ve had this week to a game situation,” James said Monday morning ahead of the series opener.
The Cavs did, reminiscent of their 115-84 victory over the Raptors in Game 1 of last season’s conference finals.
Game 2 is Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, TNT).
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The Raptors’ issues run deeper than Game 1 setbacks. Early Monday afternoon, Casey warned against a slow start for his team.
“Out of the gates, we have to be ready to go against whatever they throw at us and traditionally Cleveland has been a good first quarter team,” he said. “We have to expect that. We have keep fresh in our mind what Milwaukee did to us at Milwaukee. Before we knew it, the crowd was all into it and before you knew it here comes Milwaukee running it.
“We have to be mentally and physically ready at 7 p.m.. Not 7:15 or 7:20, at 7 p.m. We have to be in high gear because this team is high octane in the first quarter. They have done it traditionally through the regular season, through the playoffs. That is their personality.”
The Cavaliers, who were the third-highest scoring first-quarter team during the regular season, led 30-18 after one. Ninety seconds into the second quarter, Cleveland owned a 38-20 lead.
The Raptors trimmed it to 41-39, and as Casey also noted earlier in the day, “No lead is safe in the NBA. Anybody is capable of coming back from anybody.”
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Cleveland took a 62-48 lead into halftime.
And therein lies the issue for the Raptors (and others in the East): Cleveland gives up points, but opponents must outscore one of the best offenses, especially from three-point range, in the league.
That’s a difficult task with James, Irving and Love in addition to J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert.
The Cavaliers shots 14-for-34 on three-pointers (41.2%) and had 26 assists on 39 made field goals. They had 21 assists on their first 28 baskets en route to an 85-66 lead with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
Toronto wasn’t great offensively but it wasn’t horrible. The Raptors shots 43.8% from the field and 38.5% on three-pointers (10-for-26). All-Star guard Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had 20 and 19, and Serge Ibaka added 15.
It was fine, and fine isn’t enough. Toronto needs near-flawless basketball.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.