Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers - Game 2

By: Nabeela Damji

Friday, May 4, 2018

“ I hope I don’t see a 130 point game, but if I do, I hope it’s from us.”

Those were the words out of Cavs Coach Tyronn Lue before his team stepped out onto the court on Thursday evening and won 128-110 over the Toronto Raptors to take a 2-0 series lead before heading back to Cleveland.

In the same pre-game press conference, Raptors Coach Dwayne Casey said “You always want to be the hunter, you better have the hunter mentality to be successful in the NBA”

This time, they weren’t the Hunter.  They were the hunted.

The Raptors, coming off a 59-win season and top seed in the East, again couldn’t seem to figure out Lebron and Co.  So at some point they just let him do circles around them.  It was basically a nationally televised Lebron James practice.  James scored 43 points and added 14 assists in the win. And he wasn’t alone.  After whatever Kevin Love was busy doing besides playing basketball in game one, he notched 31 points and 11 boards to help out his team. 

For the first half it seemed like nothing could stop Kyle Lowry, and nothing could get Serge Ibaka started.  The game was a mere seven seconds in when Ibaka turned the ball over, missing a shot after and being subbed off by coach Casey. He had two free throws and shot 0-for-five on the night. Lowry, on the other hand had 10 points in the first quarter 4-for-4 including a pair of threes in the first. DeMar Derozan added nine in the frame and put the Raptors up by seven with a floater early on.  The Cavs however showed signs of what was to come, and went on a 6-2 run, but Toronto led 29-26 after one.  Kevin Love surpassed his point total of game one in the first quarter alone, finishing with 10 points in the frame.

I asked Love what he did that was so different from Game 1 to 2 to be so effective?

“I made some shots” *crickets*

Great. *buries head in lap and hopes he says something more before I become a sports meme, and die of embarrassment*

“As simple as that. I know it’s funny to say, but I’ve had a lot of great looks and really uncharacteristic misses for me, it’s not like I forgot how to play the game of basketball. I go out there every night and fight and try to help this team win and tonight I just wanted to effect the game in different ways.”

Phew.  I took a sigh of relief.  The Raptors didn’t get that chance.

Foul trouble was one main point in the first that caught the Raptors. Blatant missed calls and foul calls on the Raptors, like Game 1 were the biggest story in the first frame.  You could sense the frustration and disdain not only from players, but the fans.

The second quarter was, if anything, a possible ray of hope for Raptors fans.  It was mostly the bench in this frame, and they didn’t disappoint. Fred VanFleet got to work right away, earing eight points in eight minutes and hit his first seven of eight shots.  Pascal Siakaim, Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright all added to the pressure to keep the Raptors with the lead.  However, defensive troubles were costly, especially Lebron James, at times leaving him wide open.  Lowry returned for the latter part of the frame and had a questionable technical called on him, much to the dismay of fans in the building.  DeRozan had 11 points in the second and James and Love had 16 and 18 points respectively.  However, Toronto managed to head into the half with a mere two-point lead.

Enter the second half, and all hell broke loose. 

Asking coach Lue after the game how the mindset changed from the first half to the second he said “I thought defensively we let our guard down, they were scoring easily, and we stopped defending.  We didn’t talk and we didn’t communicate. But in that three-minute timeout we talked about finishing the half strong and locking down defensively, and we got some stops and we felt the momentum kind of change and we came out and had a good third quarter, and that’s what won the game for us.”

Defend they did coming out into the second. In fact, the Cavs defended the court like it was their own.  And it was by the end.

Bad defense in the third for the Raptors was enough for King James to take over with Kevin Love to end this one for good.

As I like to refer to it as the “third quarter meltdown”, in a span of six minutes the Raptors went from a two-point lead to an 11-point deficit with 18 to go in the game.  The Cavs smelled blood and with 10 minutes remaining, were up by 18. Five Cavs players ended the game in double digits, and J.R Smith and his shirt had a three-point play set up by James and Kyle Korver, and went on a 26-12 run to bury the nail in the coffin.  

Toronto are 0-for-five all time in Cleveland come playoff time and could be sent home packing by the Cavs for the third straight year. How do they feel heading into an arena where they can’t seem to win?

Demar DeRozan after the game said “We thrive off adversity, every single guy on this team, we thrive off adversity. We've been in tough situations before, and sometimes when you're put in tough situations that's what brings the best of you. That's what point we're at now. It's the first team to win four. We understand where we at, and we're going to fight."

They can fight all they want, but how effective that fight will be is to be seen.