Despite 9-0 playoff start, LeBron says Cavs 'will face some adversity'
Nine means nothing to LeBron James, although getting to one may be a chore for the Toronto Raptors.
James' Cleveland Cavaliers are 9-0 in the playoffs as they host Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night against a Raptors team that may be reeling after a lopsided loss.
Cavaliers Live pregame begins at 8 p.m. Tune to FOX Sports Ohio or stream on FOX Sports GO for postgame coverage immediately following the conclusion of Game 2.
Cleveland thumped Toronto 115-84 on Tuesday, showing why it is heavily favored to return to the NBA Finals. James hardly missed and scored 24 points in three quarters and Kyrie Irving scored 27 as the Cavaliers showed no ill effects from an eight-day layoff following their second sweep of the postseason.
James made his first nine shots with an arena-rattling powerhouse dunk for Cleveland, the first team to start the playoffs with nine straight wins since San Antonio reeled off 10 in a row in 2012.
That Spurs team never even made it to the NBA Finals. James is making sure his team possesses the mindset so that won't happen to the Cavaliers.
"I think 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. Cleveland made just 7 of 20 3-point attempts.
Such sharpshooting wasn't needed since James and company went inside for a 56-36 edge in points in the paint and overwhelmed a Raptors team without injured center Jonas Valanciunas, who is doubtful for this game. Cleveland enjoyed a 45-23 rebounding edge.
Toronto took a more draining path to this round, winning Game 7s at home against Indiana and Miami in the first two. With one day to prepare for the series opener, the Raptors looked flat.
"I thought they were the fresher team, the quicker team tonight," coach Dwane Casey said. "Again, that's to their credit, and again, it's one game. This series is not over by any means."
It's hard to believe, though, that the series won't be over soon because of James, who has five double-doubles in the postseason. He made 11 of 13 shots Tuesday and sat out the fourth after helping the Cavaliers control both ends of the floor.
"I think for us, we want to push the tempo," James said. "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."
DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points while Kyle Lowry missed 10 of 14 shots for eight for the Raptors, who made 5 of 24 3-pointers. Neither All-Star got to the line for Toronto, which has gone this far in the playoffs for the first time.
"We've got to make sure we force the issue, force the contact, if we're not, and make sure we get to the free-throw line," Casey said.
The Cavs have been so dominant that veteran journeyman Dahntay Jones has seen action five times in playoff blowouts. Jones spent the entire season in the NBA D-League before signing with Cleveland on April 13 and playing one game at the NBA level.
Now he's on a team that is clicking on all cylinders with James leading the way.
"We understand who we are as a team," coach Tyronn Lue said. "I think defensively and offensively we understand who we are, who we want to play through, who we want to go through, and it's been easier for the guys."