Predicting the NBA awards during the offseason is always tough to get right, but everyone loves whacking together a few bold predictions to see how wrong they are this time next year.
The Cavs stepped on the Raptors early – jumping out to a an early 15 point lead on their way to comfortable 125-103 victory at The Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland used a 12-0 run in the first quarter to stamp their authority on the game, as the Raptors missed seven straight shots and their offensive struggles continued.
The Cavs blitzed DeMar DeRozan early on and although DeRozan did a better job of finding open teammates out of the double, the Raptors missed open shot after shot.
The Cavaliers in comparison were red hot from the field in the first period – hitting 12 of 17 from the floor including a perfect 5 of 5 from beyond the arc. Channing Frye was on fire off the bench splashing treys with ease and finishing with 18 points.
Kyle Lowry had a decent night for Toronto, pouring in 20 points on an efficient 7 of 12 from the floor, while Corey Joseph added 22 points off the bench.
However, DeMar DeRozan endured a horrific night, scoring just five points and failing to make a single shot in the first half.
DeRozan’s night was perfectly summed up when he, a career 82% free throw shooter, missed a pair of free throws to end the first half.
On a difficult night for Toronto the play of Lithuanian centre Jonas Valanciunas was a big positive. Valanciunas had is way inside early on, making nine of his first ten shots on his way to 19 first half points.
Valanciunas has a varied offensive game and has the size and strength to cause Cleveland big problems in the paint.
However, Toronto completely failed to get Valanciunas involved in the second half. The bearded big man attempting just 3 further shots, finishing with 23 points, and did not check into to the game until five minutes into the third quarter.
If Cleveland are going to give Channing Frye extended minutes the Raptors will have to continue to exploit this mismatch throughout all four quarters.
Eventually – as it pretty much always is when the Cavs play – it became the LeBron James show. The King followed up his 35 point effort in game 1 with a 39-point explosion, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for 2nd on the all-time playoff scoring list.
James was at his dominant best all night – whipping the ball around the court to trigger the Cavs slick ball movement. Toronto couldn’t deal with James’s strength inside or with his rediscovered outside shot – LeBron hit 4 of 6 from downtown as the Cavs took complete control of the game in the third quarter.
Cleveland took a 20 point lead midway through the third and never let the Raptors back within striking distance. Kyrie Irving had another impressive performance – scoring 22 points and dishing out 11 assists.
Irving has been sharing the ball more in this series and it will be encouraging for coach Tyronn Lue to see his point guard take on more of the playmaking responsibilities.
It was another chastening night for Toronto in Cleveland as they couldn’t find an answer for the Cavs masterful offensive performance. Their issues were compounded when Kyle Lowry went to the locker room late in the third and did not return. Toronto will hope that Lowry will be able to go again in game 3.
The Raptors will take confidence from the fact they won both games on their home floor in last years Eastern Conference Finals. However, with LeBron and the Cavs in this mood it is hard to see Toronto coming back.
The series will switch to Toronto on Friday night where you feel the Raptors will have to win if they are to avoid the indignity of a sweep,