There's no place like home, the old cliche goes. For the Raptors, fresh off two bruising losses to the juggernaut Cavaliers in Cleveland, they've got to be believe in the power of this creaky, well-worn sentiment. The team needs all the help it can get. The Cavs and LeBron James do not appear to be slowing down.
Nevertheless, Toronto has some pride. It's taken them 15 years to get to the ECF and while defeat in the series feels inevitable (sorry, optimists), we the fans have to believe the team will strive for at least one win. Yes, this is where we're setting the bar now when it comes to the Raptors and their performance so far. LeBron really has done a number on our collective psyche.
For Game 3, here are some things to keep an eye on:
Change the Line-up Again?
Dwane Casey has now used 6 different starting lineup in 16 games in the playoffs. Notable for someone who wanted rotations in tact all year.— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) May 20, 2016
You have to feel for coach Casey here. He's working with two All-Star players playing either modestly at (DeMar DeRozan) or well below (Kyle Lowry) expectations. He's got to get something out of DeMarre Carroll. And he's got a power forward rotation that starts at Patrick Patterson and quickly looks at museum piece Luis Scola.
Casey opted to start Scola -- as he did all season -- to keep Patterson with the bench unit. The gambit semi-worked for a little while before the Cavs eventually blew the whole team off the court. Casey's left trying to squeeze offense from a starting lineup down two of its three most potent offensive players (Valanciunas is out for Game 3; Lowry may never be the same). He's got a bench unit that rides up and down depending on how Lowry's doing, which as I just pointed out is, uh, not great. And he's been forced to trot James Johnson out for extended periods in an attempt to slow down LeBron. None of it has worked.
So, this probably feels like a redundant question: What kind of rotation changes could we see today? More Norman Powell? More small lineups? Bismack Biyombo on LeBron? Something? Anything?
The Home Crowd
This is probably a little self-serving since I myself am part of that crowd (but will remain silently impartial at the game, I promise). Toronto fans have been documented as being quite loud. The ACC and Jurassic Park will be packed for the first ever Eastern Conference Finals game in Canada. I realize this doesn't have anything to do with what's actually happening on the court and you need more than fans to stop, say, a Kyrie Irving foray to the rim, but the Raptors have almost always played better at home (outside of Game 1s of course). The crowd gets them up, they get up, and it may be the edge they need for the win.
Now if we can just do something about game-ops' insistence on pumping in loud music all the time...
Kyle Lowry, again and again
Will we ever get a satisfactory explanation as to what happened to Lowry in this playoffs? Part of me secretly wishes that when this is all over it's announced that Lowry was playing with a broken arm this whole time. On the face of it, this sounds like a grim thing to say -- but at least it would lay a proper excuse at everyone's feet here. As it stands, there remains no easy answer to explain Lowry's extremely up and down play in this post-season. For every masterwork (e.g. Game 7 vs. Miami), there's been two or more absolute no shows. Does Lowry need a psychologist? Is it the yips? Is he just exhausted? Maybe he needs a hug? Come on Kyle, let us know! We want to help!
Oh yeah, in basketball terms: Lowry needs to hit outside shots, so keep an eye on his 3-point shooting tonight.
Where to Watch: 8:30pm on Sportsnet