If you, like me, thought the Cleveland Cavaliers’ dominance over the Toronto Raptors ended when LeBron James left for L.A., well, Kevin Love and friends would like you to know: The Cavs aren’t quite done treating the Raptors like a punching bag just yet.
Let’s just get the thoughts out of the way:
Don’t Give Opposing Bad Teams Hope
Supposedly-smart people will tell you that momentum doesn’t exist in pro sports, but as anyone who has ever actually watched sports knows, getting just a little bit of confidence can make a big difference in the outcome of a game.
Case in point, when a 48-win team comes out slow and sloppy against a 16-win team, and shows that 16-win team that they can hang with the 48-win team... well, you saw what happened. A team like this years Cavs is used to being down early and checking out; that winning feeling is rare for them. Even if the franchise is in tank mode, the players still want to chase that winning feeling. If you give them even a taste of it, give them hope that they have a chance... they’re gonna go after it.
So what’s to blame here from Toronto’s side? The Raptors’ lack of chemistry? Playing on the second-night back-to-back? Poor rotations? Cold shooting?
Maybe it’s just one of those games, where the team just doesn’t have it. These games happen. Probably a little too often for the Raptors this season, for what is supposed to be a championship contender... but, it happens.
Best to just forget it and move on.
Attack the Rim
This is a cliche, and Jack Armstrong hammers it home all the time, but these Raptors do have a habit of falling in love with the jump shot, and don’t stay aggressive in attacking the rim. Unfortunately, they have a habit of doing it against teams where it just makes no sense to settle for outside looks. The Cavs don’t have a rim protector on the roster, and their best defensive big man, Tristan Thompson, isn’t playing; and I don’t think Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Cedi Osman are perimeter stoppers, so what was keeping the Raptors from getting into the paint?
As above, I don’t have a clear answer. The Raptors just didn’t seem to have the energy to want to take the action to the Cavs. And, heck, when they did, they often ended up bobbling the ball out of bounds or throwing a pass straight to a Cavs defender.
Were these guys out enjoying the Sunday night Cleveland nightlife, or what?
The Hands, They Were Thrown
I guess I have to talk about this... sigh.
1) Serge Ibaka and Marquese Chriss get tangled up— SB Nation (@SBNation) March 12, 2019
2) Ibaka falls, Chriss stares him down
3) Ibaka gets up and grabs Chriss by the neck
4) both throw punches
5) both get ejected
This obviously isn’t the sort of thing the Raptors need; with the ongoing chemistry issues, Serge Ibaka missing a chunk of time isn’t going to help. I suspect he’ll get three games, and Marquese Chriss one; Ibaka’s got history of throwing punches, and I suspect the league has had enough.
That said... I really wanna know what Chriss said to rile Ibaka up like that, you know?
OG On Track
In OG Anunoby’s first three minutes on the floor last night, he nearly deflected a pass, helped force two 24-second violations, had a blocked shot and a tip-in off an offensive rebound. It was a microcosm of his excellent play of late; making small but important contributions on offense but being a bloodhound on defense.
He still sometimes looks like an awkward giraffe running around out there, especially on the offensive end, but the energy he’s bringing on D has been sensational.
Now, he found himself matched up with Kevin Love a few times last night, and it, uh, did not go well. Anunoby seems to have contracted the same case of CantGuardLove-itis the entire Raptors organization has had since 2016.
Thankfully we don’t have to see Love and the Cavs in the postseason this year.
And I Used to Like Jay Baruchel, Man.
I’ve been staying with my Dad for the last few weeks, which means I’m watching games with him on regular cable, as opposed to League Pass streaming, which is how I watch at home. So I’ve been subjected to a full dose of regular Raptors broadcast commercials over an extended stretch for the first time in about four years.
It’s not gone well, as this exchange with my wife shows:
Good lord, the agony. How do people sit through these night after night after night? How can they have so few sponsors that they have to show the same ads over and over and over?
I want to pull my hair out, and it’s been eight games. How do you do it for 82 + playoffs?
Well, that was a tough one to stomach, so let’s all spend the next couple of days doing a bit of a cleanse and flushing it out of our systems. Let’s hope the Raptors do the same, and exact a measure of roundabout revenge by beating the heck out of LeBron James and the Lakers on Thursday.