Cavs Shoot Their Shot Against Raptors: Game 2, Behind The Box Score

Cleveland Cavaliers – 125
Toronto Raptors – 103
[Box Score]

The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t scared of any shot, be it an off-the-backboard alley-oop or a three-pointer from two feet behind the line. They aren’t scared, either, of taking shots at the pride of the Toronto Raptors.

On Monday it was LeBron pretending to take a drink of a Great Lakes Brewery Dortmunder. On Wednesday, it was LeBron spinning the ball—twice—without a care in the world before draining a three and leading the Cavaliers to a 125-103 win to take a 2-0 series lead over a team many felt would be Cleveland’s toughest challenge in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavaliers have a certain look when things are going right. They don’t just move the ball to find open looks; they penetrate, move the ball, attack, move the ball some more, pump fake, find a guy in the corner, and bury it. On Wednesday night, things were going right, especially on offense.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said before the game that in Game 1 the Cavaliers “didn’t feel us.” As you could see in the clips above, the Cavaliers felt mostly just the bottom of the net on Wednesday. Against the Raptors’ defense, the wine and gold have so many guys that can dribble and shoot that it makes for impossible decisions for any defense, but especially a Toronto one that looks completely lost. Close out too hard and they blow by you. Don’t close out fast enough and they can drain the three. If you stay home on shooters, James and Kyrie Irving will live at the rim. Switch everything and the Cavaliers will find the weakest link and exploit it.

Cleveland made their first eight threes on Wednesday on their way to a 12-point first quarter lead. They would go on to extend that lead to 30 points on the backs of James’ and Irving’s massive third quarter, one in which the two scored 36 of the team’s 37 points.

James finished with 39 points on just 14 shots, shooting 21 free throws and going 4-of-6 from long distance. He added six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Irving continued to find the open man, dishing out 11 assists (one more than the career playoff high he set a game earlier) while managing to score 22 points on a rough shooting night.

Head Coach Tyronn Lue admitted the Cavaliers’ focus is to stop Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, even if it means giving up looks to some of their other players. DeRozan finished with just five points, making just 2-of-11 shots with only three assists. The focus on DeRozan didn’t come without a price, as Raptor big man Jonas Valanciunas exploded for 23 points in 20 minutes. Those points were not a back breaker, however, as he was unable to chase sharpshooter Channing Frye off the three-point line, letting Frye score 18 points on just nine shots, going 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Lue credited J.R. Smith for taking on the hardest defensive assignment both against the Pacers and now against the Raptors, even coming in during timeouts and saying, “don’t worry about me, I’m gonna continue to get stops.” With Smith guarding Paul George and now DeRozan, it allows James to freelance and create turnovers out of the Cavaliers aggressive trapping of ball handlers. With the Raptors guards forced to get out of double-teams and forward Serge Ibaka looking a step slow on decision making when acting as the relief valve, Toronto committed 13 turnovers. The increased number of transition opportunities has certainly helped fire up Cleveland’s offense.

The Cavaliers defense as a whole played at a level that was missing in the regular season and even in the first round series against the Pacers. They ended the night with a 99.7 defensive rating, bringing their rating down to 101.4 points per 100 possessions for the series. Even Kevin Love attempted to provide some rim protection in help opportunities, an area he has traditionally shied away from in favor of looking for the rebounding opportunity.

Now, let’s look behind the box score:

125 – The new Cavaliers record for most points in a playoff game.

30-4 – Cavaliers record against the Eastern Conference since LeBron rejoined the Cavaliers prior to the 2014-15 season.

2 – LeBron’s place on the all-time playoff points list, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during Wednesday’s game.

10 – Kyrie has totaled 10 or more assists in both games of this series so far. Irving catches a lot of flak for his passing ability, but this year, he has had his highest assist rate since James returned to the Cavs and has shown the ability to get others involved when his shot isn’t falling.

1 – Lie told by LeBron James when he said, “we’re not a complacent team” postgame. The true test of this will be Game 3 in Toronto on Friday.

  • jpftribe
  • Harv

    – Hard to overstate how quickly this team can flip the switch back to nonchalant and blow off a playoff game. And DeRozan and the Raptors will be playing for their pride and to respect a coach they claim to love. But Toronto’s comeback last year was fueled by the confluence of two events: 1) Passive no-shows by Love and Tristan. Assume Tristan was partying with local fam and friends; 2) Free agent to-be Bismack Biyombo going nuclear with 26(!) rebounds/4 blocks, followed by and 14 rebounds/3 blocks. He played with a lifetime payday desperation the Cavs never saw coming. But he’s gone, fat and happy. Jonas can get intense but he can’t rebound when Frye pulls him away from the basket.

    – Here’s what I expect in Game 3: the Raptors try to “send a message” and get physical, with frantic crowd-fueled energy and cheap shots. Same thing Boston tried in ’15. The Cavs need to run their offense and take advantage of over-aggressive close-outs with the extra pass. And J.R. needs to be told, over and over: no elbows, no retaliation, act like an adult. The last thing they need is him piling up flagrants this early in the playoffs.

    – No matter how often we say it, say it again: it is a blessing to watch peak LeBron play for our team. If Miami beats SA in ’14 he’s leading Miami to more championships there, Cavs are drafting in the teens and conspiring how to win a playoff series. Instead, LeBron clowns everyone and the Raptors trudge off the floor, hollow-eyed. This is the best.

  • scripty

    IIRC last year Game 4 the Cavs just missed a million wide open shots but couldnt buy a bucket. Then Dahntay had to come in and ring the bell.

  • RGB

    Maybe it’s just me, but Korver is a better rebounder than expected.

  • Harv

    nah. He tried to slow down Biyombo with a groin shot in the Game 3 blowout, and was suspended for Game 4. In Game 4 Cavs were way down, came roaring back (to lead?) in the second half but ran out of gas at the end.

  • Harv

    Same. He does a whole lot of fundamental basketball things better than I realized. When Delly rolled his ankle two years ago I thought he was a Steve Alford type, a jump-shooting delicate flower. Not so – he sees the floor pretty well and makes sound decisions with the ball.

  • JM85

    This series is over in 5 games.

  • JNeids

    I have such a man-crush on Korver. He’s so much smarter than people realize because they’re (rightfully) too focused on Lebron. But Korver does SO many small things that go unnoticed – box out, step into what looks like an open passing lane, etc – he’s so much more influential than just being #TreyBae (h/t Scoops Maroun)

  • humboldt

    His acquisition (for Mike Dunleavy and a wire transfer of cash) should alone justify a contract extension

  • Believelander

    Does anyone have the SHUMPTER gif from last night where Shump caught a nice clean ride to the basket and just steined a layup? That was peak SHUMPTER right there and I’m trying to immortalize it.

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