Let’s be real, the Cleveland Cavaliers were trolling the whole league when they “started to slip” the second half of the season. They look pretty ready for the NBA finals if you ask me. All bitterness aside, let’s break down just what went wrong with game 2.
The Raptors gave hope to their fans when we all got the news that Patrick Patterson and Norman Powell were to start instead of DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas. In the first 3 minutes of the game, it looked like the Raptors finally figured out the Cavaliers. Norman was doing well against LeBron James as he was playing aggressive and fearless as he drove to the basket passing LeBron on the way. Patrick Patterson was hitting his three's like he was meant to do and Kyle Lowry showed up to play going 2 for 2 right off the bat. Despite their strong start, they just couldn’t hold it down as they lost 125-103 Wednesday night. What was it about this loss that had so many fans frustrated? What went so wrong that it had some already planning what moves to make for the off-season?
1. MISSING: DEMAR DEROZAN – If found, please let him know that the Toronto Raptors will be playing at the ACC on Friday night, just in case he has nothing better to do. In order to beat this Cavs team, their offense needs to be clicking on all cylinders. We already know we can score on them because defense is lacking, but what we’re struggling with is keeping up with their runs. DeMar had a grand total of 5 points, shot 18% from the field and was -24 in net rating. When only one of your two All-Stars show up for a key game against a power-house like the Cavs, you’re in danger. The Cavs defense on Demar was good, no doubt - they picked him up early and threw the double teams but looking back at his shots, they were good looks that would have been easy for him during the regular season. His mid-range game was (and I emphasize was) comparable to Kobe, but he has yet to show up to this series. If we want any fighting chance against this team, DeMar, along with Kyle, need to lead this team on both ends of the court.
2. LeBron doing LeBron things – Simply put, this guy is unstoppable. Not only does LeBron cause havoc on his own, he makes others around him better. The man had 39 points, shooting 71% from the field and was 4/6 from the 3-point line. Guys like Norman and PJ did their best to slow him down but he is in a class of his own. His quickness and size is a problem for the elite teams in the league let alone the Raptors who lack in both categories. The only thing I can say about this guy is that wherever he goes, rings seem to follow.
3. Deadeye shooters – The Cavs are full of them and the Raptors lack them. Like I said in the game 1 summary, the 3-pointer will be a game changer and this game was no different. Through the first quarter of the game, Cavs were 8 for 8 from beyond the arc. They finished the night shooting 54.5% from the three point line. Raptor killer Channing Frye was leading the pack as he went 5 for 7 from the three and finished with 18 points. Meanwhile, the Raptors only attempted 17 three’s and shot 29.4%. DeMarre Carroll who is supposed to be our “3-and-D” guy went 0 for 4 and finished the night with zero points. Corey Joseph was our best performer from the three, as he went 2 for 3 and contributed 22 points. These long shots are what makes the runs of the Cavs so deadly because just when you think you have the lead within reach, their shooters get hot and the deficits jump from 9 back up to 20.
4. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it – Maybe this experiment of getting JV to play off the bench should be a permanent thing because it’s working. JV finished the night with 23 points, shot 77% from the field and had 5 rebounds. But like what many Raptor fans are used to, JV sightings were limited in the second half despite his performance early on in the game. It was clear that feeding JV down-low was working due to his size against guys like LeBron and Thompson but yet he was underutilized later on in the game. Mind you, he was still struggling on defense which Coach Casey is quick to notice and his trust may be wavering. Despite JV putting up decent numbers, I still feel like his fullest potential with this team has not been reached. What that potential could be is still unknown but it’s becoming very evident that the coaching staff cannot figure out what to do with him.
5. It is what it is – Alright readers, I think it’s time to accept what our situation really is with this team. It breaks my heart to say this but the Cavaliers are clearly the stronger team in this match-up and even in the Eastern Conference. Figuring out how to stop this team has been a problem we’ve been trying to solve for the past couple seasons and we still don’t have the answer. For as long as LeBron James is playing in the NBA, his team will always be the one to beat. The Cavs are a well-oiled machine that knows exactly what it needs to work. The pieces that we picked up late into the season were supposed to give us that slight advantage but it was never going to give us the edge to win. The Cavs have their flaws as a team, mainly in their defense, but what they lack in defense they make up for everywhere else. Also what the Cavs do lack in, the Raptors are not strong enough to exploit.
With the loss on Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Raptors come home 0-2. History shows that when Raptors go 0-2 in a series, they don’t come out alive. With the end of the season coming closer and closer, some big decisions will need to be made for management this off season. There are quite a few notable players that are up for free-agency like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Corey Joseph just to name a few. This will also be a time when current contracts should be reviewed and see if there are moves we can make in order to free ourselves of what we thought could have been for those players. I want to remain optimistic that this season’s end won’t come Sunday night but all I can say for now is, I’m glad that we will be able to send off the boys for the season while they’re home.