The Toronto Raptors would prefer it if Game 1 was, as DeMarre Carroll put it, flushed away. Fresh off winning the franchise's first ever second round series and moving to the Conference Finals, it was clear the Raptors showed up to Cleveland in "happy to be here" mode. And really, the team deserves to feel some joy over what's been accomplished over the past month (or eight months).
Unfortunately, LeBron James and the Cavaliers do not care about any of this. And so they annihilated the poor Raptors in Game 1 of the ECF. Now, Game 2 is tonight, and we all try to recover.
Here are some things to watch for as the game plays out:
Pick Your Poison
As has been mentioned to death, the Cavaliers are taking and making a ton of threes. It's almost as if this team went to the Finals last year and lost to an offensive powerhouse and decided to replicate this idea as best they could. Or maybe it's just having a healthy Kevin Love (plus an additional Channing Frye). I don't know. What this means for the Raptors is a choice: In Game 1, the Cavs got to the rim when they wanted, LeBron shot 11-for-13 and took only one shot outside the restricted area, but the team as a whole only took 20 three-pointers, down from their average of 34.4 attempts. Are you seeing the decision to be made here yet?
For Game 2 we'll see if the Raptors adjust. Will they help in the post when LeBron goes to work and open up possible open 3s? Will they do a better job of containing penetration into the lane instead of worrying so much about, yes, possible open 3s? Will the Cavaliers get a shit ton of easy looks at the basket again instead of, oh no, possible open 3s? Bottom line: how will the Raptors adjust their defensive scheme?
Can't Spell Support without Up
The second and third leading scorers for the Raptors in Game 1 were Bismack Biyombo and James Johnson, respectively. Just reading that sentence should make a Raps fan feel concerned. This team was built with a bunch of offensive weapons at their disposal, e.g. the shooting of Terrence Ross, the cutting of DeMarre Carroll, the inside-out presence of Patrick Patterson, the driving of Cory Joseph. In Game 1, we didn't see much of any of that. Patterson had eight points but after hitting his first 3, went 0-for-3 the rest of the night from long range. Carroll was a shell, Joseph seems to be exhausted (and he probably misses being able to go at Ty Lawson), and Ross was quiet (you never know what to expect next from him anyway).
With Jonas Valanciunas out for the foreseeable future, the Raptors need a third source of steady offense. One of those four is going to have to produce more than they did in Game 1 for the Raptors to have a chance. If two or more get going, hey, look out. So, who will it be?
As Always, Kyle Lowry
I don't mean to alarm you but Lowry was quite bad in Game 1. His final line of eight points, five assists and zero made threes is not going to get it done against the Cavs. As has been the case the entire post-season, when Lowry is at his best, the Raptors have a much, much better chance of winning the game. It's possible, as we saw against Indiana and Miami, for Toronto to weather a storm of sub-par Lowry. He can have a poor shooting night and still do enough Lowry things to make a difference. This was not so in Game 1, and it won't be allowable against the Cavaliers in general.
For the outcome of Game 2 to be any different, Lowry's got to be the difference maker for the Raptors -- this includes some combination of hitting some 3s, being disruptive on defensive, punishing Kyrie Irving any way he can, and getting to the free throw line. In the previous series, it became obvious that every time Lowry went to the bench, the Raptors struggled. But now, if Lowry is struggling, where does that leave the Raptors?
Where to Watch: 8:30pm on TSN