CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – It was the same old, same old at Quicken Loans Arena on Monday night.
Aside from two losses to the Raptors in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers have handled Toronto in playoff matchups, and have made light work of their two stars.
Boasting a win margin of 28.5 in the series a year ago, the Wine and Gold only turned in an 11-point win in Game 1 of the 2017 East Semis, though they led by 20 when the starters exited the contest.
The script might have been different on offense but the Cavaliers dialed up a similar approach on defense: stop DeMar DeRozan.
The slasher from USC played just a shade under 35 minutes, turning in 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field. He only got to the free throw line twice, making all four shots.
DeRozan’s play was a departure from his norm, averaging a career-high 27.3 points on 10-of-21 per night in 2017, but it was nothing different from when he plays the defending champions.
In last season’s series, DeRozan averaged 23 points per game, and 18.5 points in Toronto’s four losses.
Much of the success, this year and last, can be attributed to JR Smith, who has been tasked with the opposition’s top scorer for most playoff series.
Smith was happy with the performance, overall.
“I know he got two free-throws off me in the beginning of the game,” he said. “Even the ref knew, or said after half time that it wasn’t the right call. I mean, I can accept that, we all make mistakes. But I’m happy with it.
“Make him take contested twos. He walked down the lane one me one time, so just got to get better every day.”
Smith and the Cavaliers did not exactly hold Pacers All-Star Paul George in the team’s prior series, allowing 28 points to him per game, up from his 23.7 average. On the contrary, George did not have a game where he shot over 50% from the field.
Even aside from the limiting of DeRozan, point guard Kyle Lowry put up a team-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Again, that was similar to his output last season’s series when Lowry averaged 20.2 points per game, 16.5 in losses.
The Cavaliers’ approach to the defending Toronto’s two stars, according to Smith, is what they did on Monday: Attack DeRozan, while containing Lowry.
“I mean, we try and obviously, DeRozan is averaging 28, 29 or something like that in the regular season, so he is the more focal point at the offensive end,” Smith said. “We just let Kyle, not let him do what he wants to do, we try and play him into a certain area, certain traps. We definitely want to cut DeRozan’s water off, he’s the spark to their team, even when Lowry got hurt.
Prior to the 14 points that the Cleveland reserves surrendered in the final 3:17 of the game, the Cavaliers stymied Toronto in the second half, allowing just 43 points in the first 21 minutes. They allowed 48 in the first half.
“I thought in the first half, what kept them in the game was that they had 15 points in transition,” Head Coach Tyronn Lue said. “Then in the second half, they only had six. So, we did a good job of taking that away in the second half.”