For LeBron James, it’s good to be the king.
James and the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised to a 116-105 win over the Toronto Raptors in Game One of the Eastern Conference semifinal on Monday. The score made the game appear much closer than it was.
The Cavaliers were smiling all night long. No one did so more than James.
It started three minutes in when James threw down an alley-oop pass off the backboard from Kyrie Irving to stretch the Cavs lead to 10-3. Then, after getting fouled in the third quarter, James jokingly grabbed a beer from one of the arena ushers to the delight of his teammates. It was that sort of night for the Cavaliers. No stress.
James (35 points, 10 rebounds) and Irving (24 points, 10 assists) both finished with double-doubles.
The Cavaliers showed no signs of rust after seven days off, getting out to a 30-18 lead after the first quarter. They knocked down four three-pointers in the first 12 minutes, finishing with 14 for the game.
From the opening tip Cleveland didn’t really have to take Toronto seriously. The Cavaliers trapped DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry all night, daring the Raptors role players to convert open looks. They weren’t up to the task.
Norman Powell scored on just three of 11 shots, while Patrick Patterson missed four of his five shots from long range. P.J. Tucker hit just one of four three-point attempts.
The Raptors reverted back to the starting lineup they began the Bucks series with: Lowry, DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas. That lineup struggled once again in the opening minutes.
Jonas Valanciunas got thoroughly out rebounded (14 to 6) by Tristan Thompson and failed to effectively score in the post or protect the rim. Given how he got outplayed on both ends, his role for the remainder of the series remains murky.