Max Strus states Game 1 of Cavs-Magic series had NBA Finals-like atmosphere

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Max Strus is one of the few Cleveland Cavaliers to have played in the NBA Finals, and though it was just Game 1 of the first round, he said Cleveland’s victory on Saturday had a similar atmosphere inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The Cavs opened the 2024 NBA Playoffs with a 97-83 win against the Orlando Magic, a significant start as they look to forget their disappointing performance that ended their 2022-23 season.

“Last year is over with,” Donovan Mitchell said. “We flushed that. This is who we are, and this is who we expect to be.”

Back then, Cleveland lost Game 1 to the New York Knicks at home, and though the Cavs did win Game 2 there, they did not last much longer as they were eliminated in just five games.

Meanwhile, Strus was helping the Miami Heat emerge from the play-in round and make it all the way to the 2023 NBA Finals, where they ultimately lost to the Denver Nuggets. He joined the Cavs this past offseason in a sign-and-trade transaction, and prior to this series warned his teammates about what they were about to face.

The 28-year-old scored just seven points in Game 1 of the 2024 playoffs after averaging more than nine per game in 23 playoff appearances for the Heat last year.

Mitchell said he was so excited to open the playoffs that he got very little sleep before Game 1. He responded by scoring 30 points after ending his regular season with 29 points and 33 points, respectively, in the final two games and also praised the arena atmosphere.

The Cavs’ performance was in stark contrast to last year, when Jarrett Allen admitted the lights were “brighter than expected” during the series loss to the Knicks. The big man contributed 18 rebounds and 16 points in his own strong showing against the Magic on Saturday. Evan Mobley also scored 16 points, and Darius Garland contributed 14 points.

Having their star players feeling healthy and performing at high levels surely has Cavs fans feeling that the team can advance to the second round for the first time since reaching the 2018 NBA Finals.

That quest resumes with Game 2 at Cleveland on Monday night before the series moves to Orlando for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. One of his favorite sports memories is the Cavaliers-Nets playoff series from 1993.