HEADLINE

Raptors seek first series win over Cavaliers

The Sports Xchange

May 04, 2018 at 9:36 pm.

CLEVELAND — For the third time in as many postseasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers enter Game 3 against the Toronto Raptors leading the series 2-0.

But this is the first time the third game was on Cleveland’s home floor. It’s an uh-oh moment for the Raptors, who were swept out of the Eastern Conference semis by the Cavs last season and are in danger of it happening again.

The Cavs would very much like for history to repeat itself.

“It’s one game at a time, and that’s the only way we should look at it,” said LeBron James, who in Game 2 became the first player in NBA history to score at least 40 points (43) with 14 assists in a playoff game.

“We will not put our guards down,” James said. “I won’t, so that’s going to trickle down to everybody else. Understanding that the series is never won until it’s over. You’ve got to win four games to get out of a series and it starts with the next game, so I will be as sharp as I was tonight.”

The Raptors finished the regular season atop the East and were the only team in the NBA ranked in the top five in offense and defense. But the Cavs are three-time defending conference champs. They are the ones playing with poise so far in this series.

Toronto has been outscored 34-8 in points off turnovers (Cleveland set a franchise record with just three turnovers in a 128-110 win in Game 2), and by 12 points in the fourth quarter. The Cavs opened the third quarter on an 18-5 spurt.

“We’re 0-2, we understand that,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s hope, it’s pride, it’s toughness. The toughness part is the part I didn’t think we played with last night. I thought we did in Game 1. We did in parts of last night. But we didn’t do it long enough. So it’s about grit, toughness.

“If you want to use the word hope … If we’re hoping we win, we shouldn’t be in the NBA,” Casey continued. “That’s not a good word to use if you’re a professional player.”

There’s more bad news coming for the Raptors. They didn’t win a playoff game in Cleveland in either of the previous two years, and have lost eight straight to the Cavs in the postseason overall dating to the 2016 conference finals.

Counting the regular season, the Raptors have dropped four straight against Cleveland, including two at Quicken Loans Arena.

Kevin Love has struggled for much of the postseason, but averaged 20.5 points and shot 66.7 percent from 3-point range in those two regular-season wins over Toronto. Naturally, he had his finest game of the 2018 playoffs in Game 2 with 31 points and 11 rebounds.

The Raptors continually switched smaller players onto Love in Game 2 and he dominated them. In Game 1 (Love was 3 of 13), Toronto used the 7-foot bruiser Jonas Valanciunas on Love and gave him fits.

“It felt nice to see those mismatches or even see the big out on the perimeter on me — whether it was Valanciunas or Siakam or Poeltl or whoever it was — I just kind of was able to get some easy buckets,” Love said. “So that got me going early and Bron was looking for me and those guys helped me through it.”

So, in summation, it’s not looking good for the Raptors.

“Ain’t nothing changed,” Raptors reserve guard Fred VanVleet said. “There’s a reason why we are who we are. There’s a reason why we’re in the position we’re in. We get paid to do this. Obviously, it hasn’t been our best showing, down 0-2. But it’s the first to four. All we can worry about is going to Cleveland trying to get one.”

 

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