Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers will probably the one that tells us whether there’s any chance of this series becoming competitive at some point.
The Raptors lost by 31 points in the first game. They fell apart in the second quarter and defended poorly all game long, struggling with the Cavs ball movement, and the questions raised by the Cavaliers every time someone off the ball rolled to the basket. LeBron James missed only two shots the entire game, he and Kyrie Irving had a combined 51 points before the third quarter was over, and everything the Cavaliers have been doing in the postseason so far just kept on happening, only with less resistance than before.
That was the main thing that stood out to me: This wasn’t a three point shooting barrage like in the series against the Hawks. The Cavaliers were only 7-for-20 from beyond the arc. Nothing special. But they got into the paint easily, making the rim protection prowess of Bismack Biyombo irrelevant. It seemed like he always had two players to keep in mind, and the Cavaliers worked off of that with ease, shooting 62.9% from the field on 2-point field goals.
The Cavs looked hungrier, fresher, not rusty at all. Perhaps playing 14 games already since the beginning of this postseason is taking a toll on the Raptors, winning two game 7’s to get further than any other Raptors team in history. I thought they were the fresher team, the quicker team tonight. Again, that’s to their credit, and again, it’s one game. This series is not over by any means.
And that’s the starting point for the next game: The Cavaliers are going to try and knock the Raptors off their feet by running. The Cavaliers have no problem pushing the tempo, especially at home. The Raptors have gone through two grinding series, and aren’t facing an old Miami Heat team. The Cavaliers have a deep enough team to handle a quicker pace and half court basketball. And maybe it comes down to making shots and nothing else?
It sure feels like it sometimes for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry was just 4-for-14, including 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. As much as they try, the Raptors are often doing worse when they try to do everything through outside shooting. They don’t really have an advantage over the Cavaliers which makes their premise simple: Count on one of their players catching fire, and hope for the best. They probably have something more complicated in mind, but unless Lowry and DeRozan drop 55 or more each night, they’re probably going to feel outgunned in every game of what looks like a short series.