TORONTO: The last time the Cavaliers celebrated a trip to the NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving was in a knee brace and Kevin Love was in a sling. LeBron James was the only healthy member of the Big Three, but even he had battled injury problems throughout the season.

All of that has changed now. The Cavs survived the first three rounds of the playoffs with little more than nicks and scrapes and will enter Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday with a fully healthy roster. That has all three stars excited at the possibilities after James acknowledged that despite it being his first year back in Cleveland, he didn’t appreciate last year’s Finals trip as much as he had some of the others.

“Just so much was going on in my mind, knowing that Kev was out for the rest of the season and knowing that Ky was dealing with injuries all the way from the first round,” James said. “I just didn’t appreciate it.”

After last season’s back pain, James has often reiterated how this is the healthiest he has felt at this stage of a season in years. After struggling through a poor shooting season following knee surgery, Irving has roared back with a dazzling postseason.

He led the Cavs in scoring for much of this postseason before James eclipsed him recently. Now James is averaging 24.6 points; Irving 24.3. Love is third at 17.3, but both him and Irving are shooting about 45 percent from the 3-point line.

“It wasn’t the sets, it was the individuals,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “A lot of their stuff one-on-one, they’re impossible to guard. Then you double team and then you open up yourself where they have such great 3-point shooters and a great, willing passer in LeBron. They present a lot of problems.”

Particularly now that Irving is healthy. He produced some of the lowest numbers of his career following his return from knee surgery and rarely tried on defense. Members of the organization openly wondered if Irving feared reinjuring the knee or if he merely was slow playing his return, saving himself for when he was needed most.

Now, perhaps, they have the answer.

“I remember embracing Bron, and he hugs me, and he said, ‘Get your hobbling ass over here,’” Irving said of the Cavs’ celebration for reaching the Finals last year. “I just remember having that knee brace on, and it just didn’t feel the same hobbling into the locker room knowing that we were going to the Finals but wasn’t at full strength. Thinking about just the steps it took to get back to where we are now, I really have a true appreciation for these guys and my teammates and just a true appreciation of the journey.”

James has insisted for two years now the Cavs will go as far as their Big Three take them. Love has ultimately shined throughout this postseason, except for two terrible shooting games against the Raptors. James stuck with him, however, almost defiantly and remained adamant afterwards that he wouldn’t abandon Love now after he was such a key component of getting here.

James’ usage rate in this postseason of 29.2 is the second-lowest of his career and his lowest since the 2013 playoffs when it was also 29.2. The Miami Heat beat the San Antonio Spurs that postseason for James’ second ring.

By comparison, James’ usage rate during last season’s playoffs when everyone was injured was 37.6, meaning the Cavs ran more than one-third of their plays through James while he was on the floor. All of that is now changing.

“It’s definitely a different feeling,” James said. “Having these guys right here at full strength, having our team at full strength and the way I feel personally, I appreciate this moment, to be able to be part of it and to be there once again.”

As J.R. Smith celebrated in the locker room after the Game 6 win Friday, he cradled the silver ball trophy the Cavs received for winning the East. He kissed it and placed it high atop his locker as he left to shower.

“I’ll be right back,” he said. “I’m going to get your sister next.”

Smith disappeared in the Finals last season when the Cavs needed him most. He shot 29 percent from the 3-point line against the Golden State Warriors, and even that was inflated by a couple of late 3s in Game 6 after the outcome was long decided.

Smith has carried the burden of last year’s Finals collapse for the past year. Now he finally has the chance to redeem himself as the complementary piece he was supposed to be all along.

“It’s been going through my head every day,” Smith said. “That’s the only thing I think about, being in the Finals, being in that situation again and having an opportunity with a full roster. We have our chance now.”

Jason Lloyd can be reached at jlloyd@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ.