The Cavs defeated the Raptors 116-105 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference second round. LeBron James had another great playoff performance to lead them to victory. People who picked other teams to come out of the East are already changing their minds but the result has been quite apparent dating back to the previous six seasons.
LeBron posted an efficient stat line of 35 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists on 56.5% shooting. He also shot 40% from beyond the arc and shot a rare 87.5% from the charity stripe. He is showing no signs of slowing down, even with his mileage and high minutes per game. If he continues to play like this with Kyrie and co. stepping up, odds are that only Warriors will rival them. Kyrie also had a decent game, putting up 24 points and 10 assists on 43.8% shooting. Love also grabbed 13 rebounds.
Kyle Lowry played well in the Raptors’ loss. He posted numbers of 20 points and 11 assists on 53.8% shooting. DeRozan did not play very well, only putting up 19 points and 7 rebounds on 43.8% shooting. The Raptors’ role players did not step up very well and with their best scorer failing to do so too, it’s hard to get a road victory against the defending champions.
Game 2 of this series begins tonight at 7PM ET on TNT. The Raptors will have to make some changes if they want to even up the series before returning to Toronto for games 3 and 4. One of which being Jonas Valanciunas’ playing time. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey might’ve realized this since Valanciunas only played 20 minutes, but this needed to be addressed. He looks unplayable in this series and the Raptors prospered tremendously with him off the court. In fact, every time they went on a run it was without his presence. Playing small ball with PJ Tucker in the starting lineup in place of Valanciunas seems like the most logical decision to compete with the Cavs. The Raptors also have to guard the perimeter more effectively. The Cavs shot 41.2% from beyond the arc in Game 1 and that’s unacceptable defensively.
The Cavs seem to be playing just fine and it appears to be a race between them and the Warriors for who loses the first game of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. DeRozan didn’t play well and the Cavs only won by 11 points. That’s easy to say but the reality of the situation is that they played from behind the entire game. They even found themselves down 25 at one point. This is unacceptable for a top tier team in a conference and they really have to bring it tonight if they want to compete with Cleveland. They may have been able to tie the series last year after going down 0-2, but that’s last year. It’s vital for them to steal Game 2 on the road if they want to seriously win this series.
LeBron James has been on a tear in the 2017 NBA Playoffs and you’re not going to stop him. The Raptors must find a way to rotate better around the perimeter and DeRozan needs to play the best basketball of his career. This is obviously easier said than done, but it will take a great team effort from Toronto throughout this series if they want to deliver the upset. The rest lies ahead in Game 2.