CLEVELAND (AP) - Impassioned Cleveland Cavaliers fans appreciated a chance to be a rowdy home crowd for the start Thursday night of the 2007 NBA Finals, even though the game with the Spurs was nearly 1,500 miles away in San Antonio, Texas.
Six hours before the tip-off of Game 1, Ray Talerico and his friend Wes Wootten, both of Cleveland, were ready for the Watch Party at Quicken Loans Arena. They walked past The Q after coming out of a Cleveland Indians game at Jacobs Field and were biding time until they could do their basketball thing.
Cavaliers fans were invited to watch for free, with no seats reserved, to cheer Cleveland's first-ever appearance in the NBA's championship event.
"I think it's better than seeing a game live," said Talerico, 44. "You get a better view, replays, and it's free. That's great to be in the crowd."
"It's crazier than even in the past three weeks," said Wootten, 30.
The Q and the Cavaliers lowered the scoreboard's large view screens to an easier eye-level for fans in the stands, since no game was beneath it.
The previous Watch Party was May 31, Game 5 of Cleveland's series with the Pistons for the Eastern Conference championship. About 11,000 fans turned out for that 109-107 Cavaliers win in double overtime in Detroit.
A bigger turnout was expected for the first NBA Finals Watch Party, Cavaliers spokeswoman Tracy Marek said. The intensity of fan interest in the team and its star, LeBron James, assures a big showing at The Q for the games in San Antonio.
The Watch Party tries to simulate a live game experience. Home game support staff and performers, such as the Cavaliers dance team, all try to fire up the crowd as if the game were at home, she said.
While admission was free, concessions and the team store in The Q charged normal prices.
The Cavaliers plan to add a new, high-tech wrinkle for their fans' Watch Party at The Q for the NBA Finals Game 2, to be played Sunday night in San Antonio.
The Cavaliers and the NBA have teamed up with PACE, a company involved with digital 3D, to offer the "Cavaliers 3D HD Experience," described as a first-ever live game of The Finals in that futuristic format.
Four special screens, each 40 feet by 23 feet, with high definition, three-dimension capability, are being brought in, the Cavaliers said Thursday. Projectors, using Texas Instruments technology, will light up the screens. In San Antonio's AT&T Center, four specially designed camera systems will be used to send the images to The Q.
The NBA sampled the technology at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas for an invitation-only gathering for NBA All-Star Saturday Night and the 56th NBA All-Star Star Game.