In a series that’s all about the home court, the Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Canada once again, hoping to finally get a road win and send the Toronto Raptors into the offseason.
The Eastern Conference Finals have been mostly about the Cavaliers blowing out the Raptors three times at home (116-78 in game 5) but losing twice in Toronto, including 105-99 in game 4, when they blew a late lead and their defense simply collapsed on the final possessions. The Cavaliers see this as an opportunity to revise their mistakes, hoping for better communication and mostly, for their game to work.
What does this mean? LeBron James is staying away from the role of savior, saying he doesn’t plan on trying to take over the game. The key on offense is Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love getting going early. If that happens, the whole scheme of stockpiling bodies on the way to the rim doesn’t work, and the Raptors have to start moving around on defense, which means clearing a path for James, and that usually doesn’t end well.
The Raptors are counting on a number of things: Their return to Jurassic Park, their familiarity of being with their backs against the wall in these playoffs (two Game 7s), and having a post option in Jonas Valanciunas, who was major factor against the Heat and Pacers, but has played a total of 18 minutes in this series, most of them in garbage time.
Getting the ball in the post will be a calming effect for us. He’s got to be able to make it out of the double team, as the guards do. We looked at that today. He can quarterback out of the low post as well as score out of the low post, and it gives us a third option.
The Raptors don’t have time to think about what if this series goes to game 7, how will they handle playing in Cleveland, where they’ve been blown out three straight times. This is about the now, and playing like they did in games 3 & 4: Making it difficult for James and Irving to reach the basket, and hoping that Kevin Love sticks to the corners and doesn’t try to do anything in the post. Oh, and him missing open shots again.
We’ve got to play the same way we played the two home games we’ve had so far. That’s all we can do. Can’t worry about the road. We might not get a chance to go back on the road if we don’t play the right way. I don’t know why we get so comfortable once we put ourselves in a tougher situation. We’ve been doing it all year and we always bounce back. I think we just thrive off adversity. We’ve been here before. We’re here at home. We’ve played well here at home. We are playing against one of the best teams in the NBA right now. Our guys take solace from being at home, understanding we’ve been here before and we can bounce back from it. I have faith we will bounce back.
Whatever happens, this is the Raptors best season in franchise history. However, be that is at may, ending the season with a loss always leaves a sour taste in the players, coaches and fans mouth, at least for the first few days. The Raptors don’t want to end the season on that note.