Let’s see what the numbers tell us about this loss.
New Starting Five
The Raptors got absolutely destroyed in Game 1 of this series, so it was pretty obvious to everyone that coach Dwane Casey would need to make some big-time adjustments in Game 2 if they were to have a shot at stealing a game in Cleveland.
Said adjustment came in the form of a big-swing change to the starting lineup on Wednesday night. The Game 1 combination of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas was outscored 38-28 in 13.0 minutes (and 19-12 in 6.3 first-quarter minutes) on Monday, so Casey countered with a new lineup of Lowry, DeRozan, first-round hero Norman Powell, Patrick Patterson, and Serge Ibaka, with Carroll and Valanciunas shifting to the bench.
The new lineup ultimately couldn’t hang with the Cavaliers’ starters either, as they were outscored 33-22 in 22 minutes together. The Cavaliers completely withstood the initial punch as well, outscoring the new unit 19-9 in the game’s opening 6.1 minutes.
Who will start Game 3? Will it matter?
Make or Miss League
They say that the NBA is a make or miss league and this game perfectly encapsulated that adage.
Put simply, the Cavaliers shot the damn lights out. They hit 54.7% of their field goal attempts (including a ridiculous 55.6% (20-36) on contested shots), shot 54.5% (18-for-33) from long range, and went 73.5% (25-for-34) from the free throw line.
The Raptors actually hit one more field goal than the Cavaliers, while attempting 90 to the Cavs’ 75, but the game was decided by the combination of the extra point inherent in three-point shots and free points at the line.
The Cavaliers hit a whopping 18 three-pointers to the Raptors’ five, outscoring them 54-15 from beyond the arc. They also outdid Toronto at the charity stripe, making 25 of their 34 free attempts, while the Raptors could only muster 19 trips to the line and converted on 14 of those attempts.
All told, that’s a 79-29 point differential from long range and the line combined, and you’re simply not winning a game in which that happens to you.
It Happened Twice
After DeMar DeRozan’s terrible 0-for-8 performance in Game 3 of Toronto’s first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, he vowed that it wouldn’t happen twice.
Well, he must have only meant in that series or perhaps that it wouldn’t happen twice in a row, because he put up an equally deplorable line in Game 2 of this series. He scored a career playoff low of five points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field on Wednesday night, to go with a measly 1-for-3 mark from the line.
This game marked the second time this postseason (including the aforementioned game in Milwaukee, in which he scored eight) that DeRozan has failed to score in double figures — something that didn’t happen once in the entire regular season.
He played a lazy brand of basketball, not managing a single open look all game, heaving fadeaways against double teams, and barely getting to the line.
He is largely the reason the Raptors were able to rattle off three straight wins and defeat the Bucks in the first round, but he’s got a plus-minus of -53 in 65 minutes of action in this series and the Raptors will have a hard time winning a single game against Cleveland if their potential All-NBA guard plays like this.
There aren’t many of them at this point, but at least the Raptors got gutsy performances from Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas.
Lowry scored 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field, 2-for-2 from three-point range, and 4-for-5 from the line, while adding five assists. He went down with what looked like a badly sprained ankle in the third quarter, but was able to miraculously return from the locker room in a matter of minutes and get back on the floor.
Valanciunas, meanwhile, responded to his demotion to the bench by coming in and scoring 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting as the sixth man, while adding five boards.
Of course, even with these monster performances, Lowry had a plus-minus of -22, while JV registered a -13. That’s the kind of game this was.
Reasons for Hope?
In last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors got blown out in the first two games in Cleveland, but came back to even the series at 2-2 after winning Games 3 and 4 at home. Maybe they can do that again?
Of course, even if Toronto wins all three of their potential home games in this series, they’d still have two more contests in Cleveland and would absolutely have to win one of them to win this series. That’s the same Cleveland that they’ve visited five times over the last two postseasons and suffered five blowout losses with an average margin of defeat of 24.2 points per contest.
Toss in the fact that NBA teams with a 2-0 lead in a series have gone on to win 93.6% of the time in NBA history (262-18), and things start to look grim.
LeBron James is 19-0 in playoff series' when leading 2 games to 0— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2017