The Raps took another blow Thursday, losing to Cleveland 108-89 while going down 2-0 in the series. The Cavs are now a perfect 10-0 in the playoffs, while the Raptors have gone 8-8, having played six more games than Cleveland. Tyron Lue set a record for best start to a playoff career as a coach, while LeBron James passed Shaquille O’Neil on the all-time playoff scoring list.
James consistently picked apart the defence while collecting a triple double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists), including six assists in the first quarter as he distributed the ball with ruthless efficiency.
Overall it was the Raptors inability to play a full four quarters of basketball that led to their demise, playing with a fire for the first and most of the second, even taking a couple leads in the second quarter. But the final minutes of the half were all Cleveland, who finished the quarter outscoring the Raps 32-20.
The second quarter turned out to be the demise of the Raptors, throughout the rest of the game the Raps kept pace with the Cavs, losing the other quarters by three points at most.
The most surprising starting lineup this playoffs featured Luis Scola starting at the 4, as the Argentinian has barely registered minutes this post-season. He finished with 6 points and a -13 plus minus rating. DeMar DeRozan led all Raptors with 22 points, connecting on some very nice long distance jumpers in the first half. Kyle Lowry however has another poor performance, adding only 10 points while going 1-8 from beyond the arc and throwing away 5 turnovers.
As the second quarter winded down, it became evidently clear that the Raptors were in desperate need of a third scoring option. Enter Terrance Ross, who added a jolt of energy to the Raps offence, finishing with 11 points. But three early fouls forced him back to the bench and left Toronto struggling to get to the net.
The absence of Jonas Valanciunas was most evident in the dying minutes of the first half, with Bismack failing to protect the key with any efficiency, DeRozan and Lowry being defensively smothered, and Terrance Ross sitting on the bench. Particularly on the scoring side, the Lithuanian was sorely missed in the paint and could have kept Cleveland’s defence honest to finish the second half.
Valunciunas has been listed as doubtful for Game 3, as the Raptors return home looking to knock off the Cavs for the first time this post season. Some fans might be skeptical that the Raptors take home a win in Toronto, but in reality all the Cavaliers have done what is expected of them: take care of business at home. Now the Raps have the opportunity to do the same, and in front of a wild Toronto crowd it would be impossible for the squad not be to energized.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 20, 2016
A major key to stopping the Cavs will be protecting the paint at all cost, in particular against LeBron. James has attacked the rim like a predator, finding the weak spots in the opponents defence and picking it apart as he likes. In Game 1 the Raps wanted to live with the two but refuse the three, which led to LeBron having his way in the lane, finishing with 24 points, most of those coming from high percentage finishes. In Game 2 the Raps help defence was sluggish, which gave LeBron plenty of options while driving.
Game 3 will need to be their most physical game yet, with a 3rd option stepping up on the offensive side to give Kyle and DeMar some breathing room and keep the team in it for a full four quarters.
“We’re not quitting,” said coach Dwane Casey after the game. “Everybody can bury us, but we’re not quitting. I refuse to believe that.”
In the meantime, Canada Border Services have the Raptors back, holding back the Cavs for as long as they could, much to the dismay of Canada’s Tristan Thompson.
— Sports Nation Ohio (@SN_Ohio) May 20, 2016