There were questions about the Cavaliers coming into their second-round playoff series against the Raptors Monday night.
Would the eight days off between games lead to a lot of rust? The Cavaliers went on two separate 10-0 runs in the first quarter and started to pull away to a double-digit lead early that they never surrendered.
Would Cleveland find some focus on defense to keep Toronto in check? While they had lapses, in the first quarter the Cavaliers held the Raptors to 18 points, and through the first three quarters the Raptors had an offensive rating of just 96.7 points per 100 possessions, 13 points less than Toronto’s regular season average. Cleveland did a fantastic job of taking those misses and turning them into transition buckets going the other way. Like this.
Monday night the Cavaliers had all the answers on their way to a 116-105 Game 1 rout of Raptors (garbage time made it seem closer than it was). Game 2 of the series is Wednesday night in Cleveland.
“I feel like I’ll be a lot better on Wednesday,” said LeBron James, who had 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting, plus pulled down 10 boards. “The eight days we had off, we weren’t able to get game play. So a little bit of rhythm here, a little bit of conditioning, that will come back on Wednesday.
“But as a team we had great energy,”
Things went so smoothly LeBron almost had time for a mid-game beer.
It was a rough night all around for the Raptors, who struggled to get clean shots and buckets, plus let the Cavaliers get into a rhythm offensively.
“Defensively I didn’t think we played with the kind of physicality we needed to in this game,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. They were well rested, they moved and were flying around, like a half-step quicker than we were tonight. We’ve got to make adjustments as far as how we want to guard the paint and then get out to the three, and then offensively get cleaner looks.”
All of that was evident early when Cleveland was putting together a couple runs while the Raptors just missed shots. But in the second quarter the Raptors stormed back, they went on a 19-3 run and we had a game again.. or so it seemed. But the Raptors got 3-of-12 shooting from their bench in the first half, 0-of-5 from three, and when the Cavaliers starters came back in they pushed the lead back to 14 at the half, 62-48. The Cavaliers big three accounted 40 of those points.
“When they came back and made that surge in the second quarter, and we kept our composure,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of what he liked best in the game. “We brought the starters back in, was able to get the lead back up to 14 at halftime, built it up to 22 again, then they made another push and we just stayed the course. Our confidence never waivered.”
Cleveland stretched their lead out in the third and the game was never in doubt after that.