This Cleveland Cavaliers team is a beast the Raptors haven’t faced in the postseason. Both the Pacers and Heat were teams that struggled on offense, something that benefited Toronto. Cleveland, on the other hand, has dominated both their opponents on the offensive end of the ball. In turn, the Raptors’ defense got shredded, and the Cavaliers 115-84 victory in the series opener was the largest playoff win in franchise history.
The conundrum is that the Raptors kept pace with the Cavaliers in the first quarter and trailed 33-28 afterward. DeMar DeRozan had it going in the first and scored 12 points on 6/9 shooting, an efficiency that was seldom seen in the previous series. Toronto as a squad shot 13/25 (52%) overall, and a staggering 11/16 (69%) from inside the three-point line. Although their offense was on point, they allowed the Cavs to shoot 68% for the quarter. It turned into a layup line for Cleveland, who shot just four threes, and Toronto’s display of one-on-one defense was cringe-worthy. Kyrie Irving was the leading scorer with 12 on 5/7 from the field, and LeBron James and Kevin Love each had eight; James shot a perfect 4/4 and Toronto had no answer for him defensively.
The Raptors fell off horribly in the second quarter, and Cleveland continued to get whatever they wanted on offense, finishing with 33 points on 65% from the field. James had yet to miss a shot and connected on all three of his attempts to lead on the scoring end with 6. Juggling the lineups a little bit, coach Lue gave Iman Shumpert, Matthew Dellavedova, Channing Frye, and Richard Jefferson extended time. And those guys all had a plus/minus to +13. The Raptors hobbled into the locker room after a 16-point quarter, trailing 66-44.
Whatever was said at halftime worked, as it looked like some life got breathed back into the Raptors. The only problem was that their dreadful second quarter dug them a hole that they were unlikely to get out of. After just two free throw attempts in the first half, Toronto’s aggressiveness increased, and they shot eight foul shots, connecting on seven. The Raptors’ third quarter ended with 23 points on 50%, but their defense was still torched. Despite the Cavs hitting on just 53% of their shots, they finished with 29 points themselves and stretched their lead even further. James was the leading scorer for Cleveland with ten, and James Johnson had two threes off the bench to lead Toronto.
With the differential extended to 28, both coaches emptied their benches for the fourth. Tristan Thompson was the only starter to play in the fourth, and he lasted just over three minutes; Dwane Casey left Kyle Lowry and DeMarre Carroll on the floor for less than two-and-a-half minutes. The Cavs benched outplayed the Raptors, and finished off the final quarter with a 20-piece, compared to 17 from Toronto.
Irving was the lone Cavalier to play 30 minutes, and finished as the game’s leading scorer with 27; James was close behind with 24 on 11/13 shooting. After his strong first quarter, DeRozan ended the contest with just 18 to lead the Raptors.
It’s evident that the Raptors are feeling the effects of two back-to-back seven game series, the question now is if they’re able to recover and regain some competitiveness.
Game 2 is Thursday, May 19, at 8:30 PM EST in Cleveland.