Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals lacked any drama, unless you think Sonny Corleone’s “talk” with his brother-in-law Carlo in “The Godfather” was a fair and exciting fight. Will Game 2 be any different? Here are three things to watch.
1) How can Toronto defend the Cavaliers better? The problem for Dwane Casey and the Raptors coaching staff is they can make changes around the margins, but there are no good answers with their personnel on how to defend these Cavaliers. After watching Cleveland shoot 42 percent from three through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Raptors extended their defense to take that away — the result was a lay-up line at the rim for Cleveland. The Cavaliers had 56 points in the paint, all but one of LeBron James‘ shots came in the restricted area. Cleveland shot just 7-of-20 from three though, so the defense did work on one level. I guess.
What can Toronto do? Well, Bismack Biyombo must play a whole lot better, and the Raptors need to find a way to keep him closer to the rim. DeMarre Carroll must play a lot better, too. However, that’s not going to be enough. The Raptors can start switching, but that’s going to lead to open three point shooters (and the Cavs are hitting those). Or they could start to trap/double key ball handlers, but again the Cavaliers are moving the ball so well it will end with a Tristan Thompson alley-oop dunk or a J.R. Smith corner three. Toronto doesn’t have any good options, but they certainly can play the options they have with better energy and execution.
2) Will All-Star Kyle Lowry show up for Game 2? In Game 1 Lowry didn’t get one shot in the restricted area, and outside the paint he shot 1-of-10 total. That’s not good enough. After a rough start to the playoffs the All-Star level Lowry showed up in the Miami series (although Hassan Whiteside being out injured likely had a lot to do with that). That Lowry was nowhere to be found in Game 1 — he had Kevin Love switched on to him a few times and couldn’t convert. Lowry needs to attack, go right at the Cavaliers length and shot blocking, he needs to be a force and create shots. He can’t settle — and if he’s shooting threes he has to hit them.
3) Will Cleveland get complacent? We’re reaching here. While it’s possible after nine straight wins in the playoffs the Cavaliers will take their foot off the gas thinking “we got this” and let Toronto back in the series, I don’t think LeBron lets that happen. He’s on a mission. ESPN Zach Lowe summed this series up best on Twitter: