The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup by a score of 109-102 on Sunday, thus ending the Raptors’ 2016-17 season with a series sweep.
Some will talk about the season that was, other will talk about the offseason to come, but we’re here one last time to talk about one game and the numbers that stood out.
LeBron Frickin’ James
Listen, DeMar DeRozan was being sarcastic when he said, “If we had LeBron on our team, we would have won,” but his implied assessment of LeBron James — he of six straight NBA Finals appearances and counting — and his impact on this series was not wrong.
Through four games, LeBron averaged 36.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 block in 41.1 minutes per contest, while shooting a ludicrous 57.3% from the field, 48.1% from deep, and 83.3% from the line.
There are many reasons that the Raptors lost this series, but LeBron is number one with a bullet.
The Cavaliers went 16-for-41 (39.0%) from long range on Sunday, while the Raptors went 10-for-29 (34.5%). The disparity there in both volume of makes and accuracy isn’t astronomical, but it’s indicative of one of the most damning problems for the Raptors in this series: the Cavaliers hit more threes than they did. Constantly.
On the series as a whole, Cleveland shot 61-for-131 (46.6%) from beyond the arc, while Toronto went just 27-for-90 (30.0%). That’s 183-81 for the Cavs in terms of points scored from long range over the four games.
A 102-point differential from a part of the floor that is growingly defining the modern NBA simply proved to be insurmountable,.
Three Cheers for P.J. Tucker
P.J. Tucker started this game and was huge. He played a whopping 46 minutes, scored 14 points, nailed four of his seven three-point attempts, grabbed 12 rebounds, and swiped four steals.
Tucker also dominated the hustle stats, causing six deflections, recovering three loose balls, and contesting a team-high 15 shots.
His primary assignment, LeBron James, may have scored 35 points on 11-for-22 shooting (including 5-for-12 from deep), but P.J. made things harder on The King than we’ve seen anyone else do at any other point in this series. There’s no such thing as a “LeBron stopper”, but he was a darn good “LeBron slower-downer”.
If this was the last game Tucker ever plays in a Raptors uniform (please no), it will stand as his best.
A Few Random Positives
DeMar DeRozan chipped in a ceremonious 22 points, Serge Ibaka scored 23, and Cory Joseph played one of his best games as a Raptor in place of an injured Kyle Lowry, racking up 20 points, six rebounds, and 12 assists, while shooting 8-for-11 from the field, 1-for-1 from three-point range, and 3-for-3 from the charity stripe.
The Raptors went on a run in the third and even led briefly in the fourth quarter (something that they hadn’t even previously sniffed at in this series), but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
There were moral victories to be found for Toronto in this one, with the big runs and the fight they displayed to the bitter end, but they were simply knocked down by a better basketball team, losing the four games by an average of 15.3 points per contest.
There were many interesting numbers in this series, these playoffs, and this season as a whole, but all we’re left with now is the number representing how many games, minutes, and possessions the Raptors have left this year: