Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers look to be in the driver’s seat after two blowout playoff wins over the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena.
Despite key additions in Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker, as well as a lineup change sending Jonas Valanciunas to the bench, the song remains the same for the Raptors as things head north.
With the Cavaliers playing less than stellar in the regular season, the contrary to the 2015-16 season, Toronto may have felt that this was their time to overcome the team that has bounced them in two straight playoffs.
Now, a year later, the Raptors are in the same place, and they were not happy with how the story ended a year ago. They’re not happy about now.
“We should be embarrassed, we should be angry, we should be pissed off,” Raps Head Coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “Mad. Same situation we were in last year, now what are we going to do about it? We’ve talked about it now for a week.”
While there is a sense of ‘here we go again,’ there remains some optimism in the Raptors locker room that they can re-write the script, even though the first handful of pages tell the same story.
Toronto evened the series at the Air Canada Centre last year, why can’t they do it again? And why can’t they take that momentum and run when, now an if, they get back to Cleveland.
“The series has gone nowhere. We had two tough losses here again. Until the team loses on another team’s court, it’s a series,” Casey added. “We go back to Toronto, they played well, we shake their hand, they shot great. Again, they played well, and we haven’t scratched the surface of where we can go. So we’ll take our butt-whooping and go home.”
Casey also snuck in some frustration with LeBron James shooting 21 free throws, while his team collectively shot 19.
The fact of the matter remains, the Cavaliers are doing the same things they did against the Raptors last season: eliminating DeMar DeRozan and hitting 3-pointers at a high clip (18-of-33 on Wednesday).
What is even more daunting is that, though it seems to be said every year at this time, LeBron James may be playing the best basketball of his career. On Wednesday, he scored 39 points on 14 shots, the only player to do that in a playoff game since 1984, other than Portland’s Terry Porter in 1992.
“They’re playing like the defending champs and that’s what they look like right now,” Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said, calling the game ‘discouraging’. “They’re playing extremely well, but I’m still confident in what we can do. We have to go home, protect our home floor and come out there being more aggressive. Maybe extra hustle plays or dive on the floor…just try and muck the game up.”
Another issue that will present itself to the Raptors is that the Cavaliers have seen this movie before, as well. Though it ended positively, all things considered, the defending champs are not looking to see the Raps any longer than they have to.
“I addressed it in the locker room after the game,” Cavs Coach Ty Lue said. “We was in the same position last year. Last year we won those two games by a combined 50 points, like we did again this year. We can’t take this team lightly. They’re a good team and we know that. They’re a dangerous team. They have two guys in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan that can really hurt you.
“We’ve got to go to Toronto with the mindset that this is a business trip. We’ve got to take these guys serious. These two games are over and we did what we were supposed to do. We won these two games at home and now we’ve got to go on the road with the same mentality.”