When the NBA playoffs began last weekend, the Cleveland Cavaliers were the prohibitive favorite to emerge from the Eastern Conference and make their second consecutive Finals appearance.

Nothing changed after the top-seeded Cavaliers’ hard-earned 106-101 victory over the eighth-seeded Detroit Pistons Sunday. Despite the Pistons going toe-to-toe with the star-laden Cavaliers for nearly the entire 48 minutes, LeBron James’ superior playmaking skills proved to be the difference in the latter part of the fourth quarter.

James (22 points), Kevin Love (28 points) and Kyrie Irving (31 points) combined for 81 points, but it was James’ 11 assists and well-conceived effort to engage Love and Irving offensively that was paramount with an eye on the long-term.

During the regular season, the trio lacked consistent cohesion and struggled with solidifying a pecking order. James is the unquestioned alpha dog. His resume, which features two NBA titles, two Finals MVP awards and four regular season MVP trophies, affirms the 13-year veteran’s status.

Yet, without Love and Irving operating effectively and efficiently offensively, the Cavaliers have little chance of defeating either the Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs—one of the two is almost certain to come out of the Western Conference—and winning the franchise’s first ever NBA title.

It’s still very early in the playoffs. Game 2 of the best-of-seven open round series was last night (Wednesday) in Cleveland and the Pistons have the look of a team that won’t go down easily. But from the first impression, James finally has the Cavaliers, specifically Love and Irving, coalescing.

In the other Eastern Conference series, the fourth-seeded Hawks hold a 2-0 lead over the fifth-seeded Boston Celtics. The third-seeded Miami Heat were up 1-0 on the sixth-seeded Charlotte Hornets heading into Game 2 in Miami last night. And the second-seeded Toronto Raptors and the seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers are tied 1-1,with Game 3 tonight in Indiana.