Cleveland showed no rust from its long layoff and thumped Toronto 115-84 on Tuesday in the opening game of the NBA Eastern Conference finals, stretching its perfect record in this season’s playoffs to 9-0.
Kyrie Irving scored 27 points and LeBron James had 24 in three quarters for the Cavaliers, who shot 67 percent from the field in the first half to set up the record margin of victory.
Cleveland is the first team to start the playoffs with nine straight wins since San Antonio reeled off 10 in a row in 2012.
But although the Cavs are more than halfway to winning a title — and ending the city’s 52-year drought in major league sports — James isn’t satisfied.
“I don’t think we have complacency in our minds,” he said. “We have a goal and our goal is not nine wins. I’ve won nine games before. I’ve won 14 games before. We will face some adversity.”
Unlike their second-round series when they made 77 3-pointers and swept Atlanta, the Cavs did most of their damage from close range this time. Cleveland made just 7 of 20 3-point attempts.
DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points and Bismack Biyombo added 12 for Toronto.
Kyle Lowry, who scored 35 points in the Raptors previous game, was held to just eight as he and the Raptors were roughed up in their first ever appearance in a conference finals.
Game 2 is Thursday night.
Cleveland must have feared some rust setting in following a nine-day break since ousting the Hawks. But not only did the Cavs look refreshed, they looked better than before, taking their game to another level.
And James, as is almost always the case, led the charge. He finished 11 of 13 from the field and added six rebounds and four assists in just 28 minutes. James spent the final quarter on the bench cheering on Cleveland’s reserves, who finished off the club’s most lopsided postseason victory.
The Cavs outscored the Raptors 33-16 in the second quarter, with James producing a huge dunk during a 20-2 spurt.
Toronto did not get its first field goal of the second quarter until there was 6:26 to go, and closed within 12 before the Cavs decided enough was enough and closed the half with a 12-4 flurry to go up 66-44.
This was Cleveland at full force, not the version missing Kevin Love and Irving in last year’s Finals.
“They waited a full regular season to get back to this moment,” James said of his teammates. “They trained their bodies all season long to get back to this point and those guys have been spectacular.”