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Which strategies will we see from the Raptors and Cavaliers in Game 3?

Dwane Casey and the Raptors are shook, and LeBron and the Cavaliers are looking comfortable. What can the Raptors do to make this a series?

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards -  Game Four Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Raptors went down 0-2 against the Cavaliers, and it feels like the end of the world for the Raptors. Is it?

For this installment, I’m changing the format up a little bit to brainstorm more on what Dwane Casey can do moving forward.

The majority of the game plans—defensively and offensively—were covered on the first two installations of this series that can be found below:

Game 1 Strategies

Game 2 Strategies

For the Cavs

LeBron Down on the Block

We’ve seen this strategy since game one, but the reps got higher in game 2. Even OG Anunoby couldn’t do a thing once LeBron James got deep post position, and the fadeaway shot was a good counter whenever OG or Pascal did a decent job anticipating the drive.

Will we see it again: Unfortunately, yes

Backdoor Cuts

I worried about this tactic with Jonas Valanciunas covering Kevin Love to start the game. Kevin Love has the quickness advantage, and as they say, three-point shooters have an extra half-step advantage against their defenders. Love made JV look like a lumbering giant chasing him, picking him apart via fade to the perimeter or backdoor cuts to the basket.

Will we see it again: Barring matchup adjustments from Casey—unfortunately, yes

Full-Court Press

The Cavaliers opened up the second half of game 2 in a “mild” full-court press on the Raptors in consecutive dead ball situations. This strategy low-key set the tone for the half defensively, as it took the Raptors out of their rhythm. Mainly, it took the ball out of Lowry’s hands, meaning he couldn’t push the ball in transition, which in turn slowed down the pace and made the Raptors go away from their system offense. Any turnovers (like the one where Ibaka dribbled the ball off his foot) were just a cherry on top for the Cavs.

Will we see it again: Definitely

For the Raptors

I got this question a lot after game 2: “Is there still hope for the Raptors?” Or I heard the comments like: “Just like last year.” Well, I beg to differ. For one, the Raptors won four of the eight quarters played so far, with the Cavs taking the game 1 overtime period for the win. Last year, the Raptors only managed to get two out of eight quarters, and both quarters were in garbage time. The Raptors had no chance in either of the losses last year.

Had the Raptors taken care of their business in game 1, losing game 2 would have a very different conversation after the loss. But there’s still warranted optimism, and all the Raptors have to do is focus on the defensive end.

With that being said, let’s go over some issues and adjustments available for Dwane Casey and the Raptors.

What to do With Serge Ibaka?

Serge Ibaka has been a total disaster this series. In game 2, the boat started leaking in the late second quarter, but it didn’t capsize until the start of the second half—with Ibaka at the center of the tragedy.

The Cavaliers are leaving Ibaka alone in the perimeter and treating him as a non-threat, probably worse than OG. Worse, he doesn’t bring value anymore on the defensive end, as he has to guard JR Smith.

Potential Adjustment: Start Pascal Siakam

This move would probably mean that Ibaka might be out of the rotation. At the very least, Pascal Siakam is a threat in transition and can follow J.R. Smith far better than Ibaka. This option also gives Casey the opportunity to alternate him and OG guarding LeBron from time to time.

What Will Casey Do: Start C.J. Miles

Because, Dwane Casey.

Single Coverage with the Second Unit

Or at least, until that 9-minute mark in the first quarter when LeBron goes to the bench. I have been harping on keeping LeBron’s teammates contained—I know it’s not easy, but it’s doable. We’ve seen Indiana do it.

What Will Casey Do: Keep switching

Because, Dwane Casey.

Lowry + Bench to Close Quarters

The Raptors slump near the end of first and third quarters because the ball sticks too much on DeMar DeRozan’s hands. We’ve seen the Cavaliers creep closer around this time, so why keep doing it?

What Will Casey Do: Stick with DeRozan + Bench

Because, Dwane Casey.

Play Lowry/C.J. Miles/DeRozan Together

This move is good in theory, but should only be utilized if JV and Love are not on the floor. Actually, any Miles-DeRozan pairing shouldn’t happen with LeBron on the court.

What Will Casey Do: Sub Miles in for Ibaka, and play Derozan/Miles/JV together

Because, Dwane Casey.

Winning Game 3 comes down to how well the Raptors respond defensively. Or how young Ibaka feels that night. Dwane Casey needs to re-imagine his rotation and figure out what’s working and what’s not. The Raptors need to stick to their offense and wait for the defense to catch up, but they are running out of time, and they have to make a move soon. Let’s see what Casey will do tonight.