LeBron James scored 25 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Atlanta Hawks 104-93 to take a 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series on Monday.
James also contributed nine assists and seven rebounds as last year’s NBA Finals runners-up got off to a smooth start in the best-of-seven series at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
Kyrie Irving added 21 points with eight assists and one rebound as the well-rested Cavaliers dominated against a weary Atlanta.
The Cavs had benefited from more than a week off after wrapping up a 4-0 sweep of the Detroit Pistons in the first round.
A satisfied James said suggested Cleveland had benefited from eight days off against an Atlanta side who were taken to six games by the Boston Celtics in the previous round.
“Give a lot of credit to the Atlanta Hawks, they brought it today,” James said.
“Obviously, you could tell they went through a longer series than us.
“Eight days is a long time but we tried to do whatever we could to stay in rhythm, to stay in shape. A win is a win in post-season.
“We’re going to get better as the season goes on but it’s a great start to the series.”
James meanwhile was pleased with his own contribution to the victory – but insisted Cleveland’s win was a team effort.
“I had to make some plays for this team,” James said. “They look at me as the leader of this team every single night.
“But this was a 15-man win right here – we needed everybody, even the guys who weren’t in uniform.”
Germany’s Dennis Schroder was the top scorer for Atlanta, pouring on a game-high 27 points with six assists and three rebounds.
Paul Millsap added 17 points while Kent Bazemore finished with 16 points for the beaten visitors.
Game two in the series takes place in Cleveland on Wednesday.