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NBA Playoff Poll: Who wins Game 3 in Toronto?

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The Raptors may be on their last legs — literally — but there are still games to play against the Cavaliers.

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors have been here before. Usually that implies something good in basketball, some understanding of the moment, context that will not overwhelm a given team or player. In this case, we’re talking about a Raptors team that finds itself down 0-2 once again to the mighty Cavaliers. The adage here is of no help. LeBron James has a way of making everything in opposition feel quaint anyway.

Still, the Raptors were in this situation last post-season, having been blown out twice in Cleveland before evening the series in Games 3 and 4. Did it matter in the long run? No, not entirely. The Cavaliers ran the score up in Game 5 and then gently put Toronto to sleep at the ACC in Game 6. At the time, it felt like an honour.

This year sticks in the craw a bit more. The Raptors’ best punch was supposed to be more potent. You’ve read all the takes already suggesting why this was the case. Now we’re here again anyway. So what do the Raptors have to do in the short term to save their dignity and make this series a tad more competitive?

First, let’s hope Kyle Lowry is as close to OK as possible. In Game 2, after Tristan Thompson threw Norman Powell into Lowry’s leg, the Raptors’ leader went down in obvious pain. That he returned is a rather heroic feat, even if, ultimately, he had to leave the game again for good. In those third quarter minutes Lowry played with the wounded ankle, it was clear he was a step slow or tentative with his movements. There was a ginger-ness there that he couldn’t quite hide. If Lowry is less than 100 percent tonight (which is 100 percent the case), it could be a long game for the Raptors. Lowry’s been the one bright light.

Second, but there should be a second bright light, and his name is DeMar DeRozan. I don’t know if it’s J.R. Smith’s defensive pressure (what an absurd turn of phrase), or the presence of Thompson, but DeRozan has not been himself at all through the series’ first two games. In Game 2, DeMar managed five points on 2-of-11 shooting, with, if you can believe this, the majority (4) of his points coming in late garbage time. That’s right, DeRozan — the Raps’ top scorer — had 1 point for most of the game. As is always the case, the Raptors need him. And to get him going DeRozan will need to: get into his offense faster, attack the paint, and, ideally, move the ball quickly and effectively out of traps. Should we expect a bounce back game from DeRozan? Well, he did say he wouldn’t have a bad game again...

Third, the bench! It seems so simple, but production from any (or all) bench players would be nice. Serge Ibaka is filling the role of third option on offense to a T, the Raps have gotten a nice boost from Jonas Valanciunas off the bench, but the rest of the team has been, in a word, bad. Somewhere along the line, it behooves Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, and P.J. Tucker to hit some shots. Also, I would not be above Norman Powell taking a more active role in the offense. He’s trying, and for that, I give him kudos. (And yes, I realize Patterson and Norm are now starters; they’re spiritual bench players at this point and Toronto needs every ounce of offense it can find.)

The Cavaliers are still the better team, but they’ve been shooting such an impossible percentage — on threes, on contested shots, on every kind of play possible — that it feels like they’re bound to cool down. (Maybe?) There’s no real way to stop LeBron James, but he and his cohorts can have an off night. At this point, it feels like the only shot the Raptors have got.

Dark times. But hey, we’ve all been here before.

Poll

Who ya got winning Game 3 in Toronto?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Raptors, the law of averages has to still exist
    (139 votes)
  • 49%
    Cavaliers, math has no meaning here
    (134 votes)
273 votes total Vote Now