They've won the East three years running, and eyes are wide open across the NBA after Cleveland came here and stole Game 1 of this Eastern Conference semifinal from the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors, 113-112 in overtime.
LeBron James, perhaps gassed from his herculean efforts to get the Cavs to the second round, shot just 12-of-30 in the game. Heck, the Cavs didn't score in the game's final 2:16, and Toronto's Fred VanVleet had two wide-open looks at 3s — once near the end of regulation and then late in overtime, that could've won it for the Raptors. Cleveland didn't even lead this game until overtime.
And yet James finished with his 21st career playoff triple double — 26 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds — and the Cavs stole homecourt in this series.
JR Smith finished with 20 points, Kyle Korver added 19, and Jeff Green scored 16 off the bench.
DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points for the Raptors and Jonas Valanciunas posted huge numbers (21 points, 22 rebounds), but shot 7-of-19.
This is the third consecutive year these two teams have met in the playoffs, and third time the Cavs won Game 1. The Cavs took the 2016 Eastern Conference finals from Toronto in six games, and swept the Raptors out of the conference semis last year.
The Raptors had lost 10 straight Game 1s entering the 2018 postseason, but took the opener against the Wizards.
Cleveland's final points came on Tristan Thompson's putback of James' miss with 2:17 left in overtime. Korver and Smith knocked down 3s — Korver's with 4:23 to go in the extra session stood for Cleveland's first lead at 108-107. Those were the totality of the Cavs' scores in overtime.
VanVleet's last miss of a 3 was with three seconds left. Thompson rebounded and a foul was called, so the Cavs merely had to inbound the ball with .3 to go.
James, who at one point was 1-of-8 shooting in the fourth quarter, buried a turnaround jumper with 30 seconds left to tie the game at 105. Fred VanVleet missed a wide-open 3 with seven seconds left, and then DeRozan, CJ Miles, and Valanciunas all missed from point-blank range inside of two seconds.
The Cavs had the ball with 0.6 seconds left out of bounds, and James missed a tough fadeaway that would've won it in regulation.
Thompson was incredible again for the Cavs with 14 points and 11 rebounds, this time off the bench. Kevin Love's playoff struggles continued. Though he corralled 13 rebounds, he shot just 3-of-13 for seven points. Valanciunas dominated him.
Coach Tyronn Lue opted to go with a small starting lineup, featuring Love at center and Korver on the court, with the hope of putting Valanciunas in the precarious spot of having to chase Love out to the perimeter.
It meant Thompson, who had a monster Game 7 against the Pacers, would come off the bench, and the Cavs were wondering if the floor spacing would force the Raptors to maybe even sit Valanciunas for long stretches.
Obviously, the strategy didn't work, and the Cavs will almost surely adjust for Game 2.
Kyle Lowry finished with 18 points and 10 assists for the Raptors.
Lowry and DeRozan scored as many points as the Cavs in the first quarter. The duo combined for 19, which tells you what you need to know about how this one started. Love was miserable (0-of-4) and the Cavs shot 30 percent. The Raptors were red hot (13-of-21), jumping out to a 33-19 advantage.
The series started for real in the second quarter. Smith and Green poured in 11 points each and Cleveland knocked down 5 3s. The Cavs got as close as one point and trailed 60-57 at halftime. Korver scored 10 in the third to keep Cleveland in it. It's a quarter that has been a bugaboo for the Cavs for most of the playoffs and the Raptors were ahead by as many as 13, but led only 87-82 entering the fourth.
Valanciunas steamrolled his way to 13 points in the third, mostly over Love, who was 1-of-8 shooting for two points through three quarters.
The Raptors committed 14 turnovers for 21 points; the Cavs committed just six turnovers for four points -- a huge difference.
Lue was worried about Toronto's bench coming into the game — which was ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring in the regular season — but the Cavs' reserves actually outscored their counterparts, 37-35.
Game 2 is at 6 p.m. Thursday at Air Canada Centre.