LeBron James exploded into the paint.
His man, James Johnson, had gone over a ball screen – a fateful mistake with the other four Raptors attending to all the 3-point shooters the Cavaliers had on the floor. LeBron hit a layup while being fouled and added the free throw to punctuate a 16-2 first-half-ending run.
Cleveland led by double digits the rest of the way en route to a 108-89 Game 2 victory Thursday. Behind LeBron’s triple-double, the Cavaliers lead the Eastern Conference finals 2-0.
The Cavs become the fourth team to start a postseason 10-0, joining the 2012 Spurs, 2001 Lakers and 1989 Lakers. The way Cleveland is playing – winning 17 straight Eastern Conference playoff games – it could break the record for best start to a postseason (11-0 by the 2001 and 1989 Lakers).
Even with Game 3 in Toronto on Saturday, the Cavaliers firmly control this series. Teams that win the first two games at home in a best-of-series have won the series 94% of time. They’re undefeated when outscoring the opponent by 50 through the first two games, which Cleveland has done.
The Cavs got excellent production from their stars – LeBron (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals), Kyrie Irving (26 points) and Kevin Love (19 points) – and Toronto decidedly didn’t. Though DeMar DeRozan was fine, leading the Raptors with 22 points, Kyle Lowry played terribly.
The point guard scored 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers, with three assists and five turnovers. Toronto’s offensive rating with him on the court was 99.4.
Somehow, it was worse when he sat — 80.6. As dismally as he played, the Raptors still need him to run the show.
No Toronto role player stepped up offensively (thanks in part to Tristan Thompson‘s strong defense), and Dwane Casey’s defensive game plan continues to fizzle. The Raptors are daring the Cavaliers – who entered the series red hot from beyond the arc – to beat them inside, and the Cavaliers are doing just that. Cleveland shot 25-for-39 in the paint and attempted 37 free throws.
As the Hawks and Pistons learned, though, the alternative isn’t much better. The Cavs can beat teams in a variety of ways.
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, their depth took a hit when Matthew Dellavedova appeared to turn his ankle by stepping on Cory Joseph‘s foot in the fourth quarter. Dellavedova hobbled off and didn’t return. He’s a fine player, a helpful cog in Cleveland’s attack. The Cavs should be concerned about their backup point guard.
But the Raptors should be worried about their All-Star starting point guard – which says plenty about the state of this series.