Cleveland Cavaliers 94
Toronto Raptors 91
In the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers faced the Toronto Raptors and won the series 4-2. In the 2016 American League Championship Series, the Cleveland Indians faced the Toronto Blue Jays and won the series 4-1. You have to figure Toronto is getting tired of Cleveland.
Make no mistake, though, the Raptors put a scare into the Cavaliers in that ECF matchup. Especially when they pretty much had their way with the Cavaliers in Games 3 and 4 in Toronto to even the series at 2-2. The Cavaliers won the next two games to advance, however, and eventually won the NBA Championship. But the Cavaliers were not so easily forgotten by Toronto. You know the Raptors wanted to make a statement in this rematch, and even in a loss, Toronto definitely sent a message that they can still hang with the Cavaliers.
Despite having the lead for most of the game, the Cavaliers could never quite pull away from the Raptors. Every time the Cavaliers hit a big shot and it would feel like maybe the Cavaliers were poised to go on a run, the Raptors would answer right back and close the gap back to one. Eventually, with 2:37 left in the game, the Raptors took their first lead of the game.
Over the final two minutes, the two teams went toe to toe with a series of tough defense and free throws. LeBron James hit a pair of free throws to give the Cavaliers a two point lead, but DeMar DeRozan threw down an absolutely terrifying dunk right down the lane to even things up with 1:31 left. After a sequence of missed shots at both ends, LeBron James pushed the ball in transition, drove into the lane, and kicked the ball back out to Kyrie Irving who knocked down a clutch three-point shot with 44 seconds remaining. That would stand as the game winner as the Cavaliers escaped Toronto with a 94-91 win.
This game lacked the playoff intensity that we saw in the ECF, of course, but as the fourth quarter progressed, the game really slowed down and the teams approached the game in a possession-by-possession fashion fitting for the playoffs. This one is interesting because I think both teams might come out of this game feeling decent about themselves. The Raptors made some minor changes in the offseason, most notably losing Bismack Biyombo who absolutely terrorized the Cavaliers. But even without Biyombo, the Raptors still showed that they are capable of causing some problems for Cleveland. As for the Cavaliers, walking out of Toronto with a win on a night when they were still turning the ball over too frequently and didn’t shoot well, particularly in the second half, is always a nice feeling.
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. This game coincided with Game 3 of the World Series, so naturally most of the Cleveland sports attention is on the Indians, as it should be. So with that in mind, I’ll just say this is an early season game that really doesn’t tell you too much about either team. I thought the Cavaliers played pretty well again, but their shot has been slightly off for most of this young season so far. Otherwise, they’re getting good shots, moving the ball well, and coming up with big plays on defense when they need it. So far, so good. So let’s get into the numbers.
- 13/9 – In the first half of this game, Kevin Love had 13 points and 9 rebounds, just missing the first-half double-double. So far this season, Love has looked much more comfortable in the offense, and in the first half Love was especially effective picking his spots, making the right pass when necessary, and taking advantage of what the Toronto defense was giving him. Love worked both inside and out really well as he took 4 shots at the rim, 6 two-point jumpers, and 5 three-point shots. Forgetting whatever expectations Love may have had in the past and may still have, the reality is that now in his third season with the Cavaliers, Kevin continues to look more and more comfortable in his role with this team. Kevin finished this one with an impressive all around stat line of 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 0 turnovers.
- 38.9% – The Cavaliers held the Raptors to just 38.9% shooting from the field in this game. I was really impressed with the Cavaliers defense in this game. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love both made good defensive plays in the post, JR Smith continues to be a disruptive force on the perimeter, and even Kyrie Irving showcased some of the good ball denial defense he played in the NBA Finals in this one. It’s so early in the season, but both Kyrie and Love has shown so much more defensive awareness this season. If they can keep it up all season, the Cavaliers will be able to survive a lot of games like this where there shot isn’t going down.
- 32, not 40 – In the Raptors opener, DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points on 27 shots. Against Cleveland, DeRozan scored 32 points on 28 shots. DeRozan is an absolutely terrifying player. He is one of the most underrated players by casual fans of the sport. While Kyle Lowry might get more attention nationally, but DeRozan is the one that scares me the most. After signing a big extension in the offseason, DeRozan looks poised to have a monster season. In this game, the Cavaliers were able to do just enough to get a few more stops to prevent DeRozan from another 40 point night that would have won the game for the Raptors.
- 17 – The Cavaliers turned the ball over 17 times against the Raptors on Friday night. On the season, the Cavaliers are turning the ball over 16.2 times per 100 possessions, the 6th most in the NBA. The Cavs aren’t shooting the ball as well as most think they’re capable of, but their ball movement and passing has been so good this season. The biggest problem for Cleveland on offense so far has been the turnovers. Once they cut them down, the offense is really going to be tough for teams to handle with the way they are passing right now.
- 4.2/2/0 – In Game 3 of the World Series, Josh Tomlin went 4.2 innings giving up 2 hits and 0 runs. Yes, I will continue to dedicate one section of Behind the Box Score to the Indians for as long as they are sill in the Series. Tomlin had something of a rollercoaster season for the Indians, both on and off the field. But in this postseason Tomlin has been sensational, giving the Indians just enough to win. At the time of this writing, the game is still 1-0 Tribe, so I don’t know what happens. But kudos to Tomlin for coming up huge in the biggest start of his career.
Tomorrow the Cavaliers will be back home where they face the Orlando Magic. The dreaded back-to-back with travel sequence is never fun, but it’s good to get one of these out of the way early in the season. But let’s be honest, pretty much everyone in Cleveland is going to be watching the World Series, right? Go Tribe!