The Raptors must be feeling a strong sense of déjà vu. After losing both legs of their homestand, they are down 2-0 against the Cavs and are staring down the barrel of a third consecutive premature playoffs exit at the hands of LeBron James.
James had more help in getting the Game 2 win than he did in Game 1, with Kevin Love scoring 31 points, and JR Smith, George Hill, and Jeff Green all chipping in. It was the best player in the world, however, putting in one of his greatest performances yet with 43 points on 19-for-28 shooting, dishing out 14 assists and grabbing eight boards.
For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry started well and ended with 21 points and eight assists, while DeMar DeRozan added 24 points. They played decent enough basketball but had no way to stop James and the Cavs from scoring.
Three keys to the game
LeBron James – Without wanting to harp on about an individual player, he will be the most important player in this game by a long way. His 43 points in Game 2 came on the back of a bunch of unstoppable drives and spin moves, and a flurry of mid-range step backs, none of which can be defended. His 14 assists that went along with it made it nearly impossible for Toronto to contain the Cavs, and if he puts up a performance even remotely as good in this game, Cleveland will win.
Turnovers – Both these sides were in the top ten in the league at taking care of the basketball through the regular season, averaging 13.4 (Toronto) and 13.7 (Cleveland) turnovers per game. The Raptors have been around that mark through two games in this series so far, but the Cavs have hardly given up the ball at all. In Game 1, they turned it over just six times, while in Game 2 that number was just three.
3-point shooting – This is another area where the Cavs have been able to get on top so far in this series. In two games they have connected on 25 long balls at 41%. Toronto have been okay, shooting at 36.2% from long range, but in Game 2 they hit just nine of their 28 attempts.
Matchup to watch
LeBron James vs OG Anunoby – Anunoby won’t be the only Raptor tasked with guarding LeBron, with guys like Pascal Siakam likely to take some of the duties, but he will spend much of his time doing so. On Thursday, Anunoby, and whoever else was on James, was a lamb to the slaughter, trying in vain to stop what was an unstoppable offensive performance. All he can do in Game 3 is try to make it as difficult as possible for LeBron. The Cavs star won’t be stopped and will put up 30+ points and double-figure assists, but if Anunoby can help prevent another performance like last Thursday’s, Toronto will at least have a chance.
Cleveland Cavaliers predicted starting lineup
PG – George Hill | SG – Kyle Korver | SF – JR Smith | PF – LeBron James | C – Kevin Love
Toronto Raptors predicted starting lineup
PG – Kyle Lowry | SG – DeMar DeRozan | SF – OG Anunoby | PF – Serge Ibaka | C – Jonas Valanciunas
You guessed it – LeBron. We all know what he’s done in the first two games of this series, particularly the second, but they haven’t been the first time he’s torn apart the Raptors this season. One of his best performances of the year came back in March against Toronto, when he shot 11-for-19 from the field for 35 points, grabbed seven boards, and dished out a huge 17 assists to go with just two turnovers.
Cleveland have been given just a 4.5 point handicap in this game and based on the first two games they should be able to beat the Raptors by more than this. Toronto, one of the best teams in the league at home throughout the season, were decimated in Game 2, and while that’s unlikely to happen again, Cleveland should be able to get the job done by over four points.
The East’s number one seed will be staring down the barrel of a second-round exit after this game. The Cavs put in a much more well-rounded performance in Game 2, and though James was phenomenal, the most pleasing thing for them was the improved form of Green, Hill, and in particular, Kevin Love.
If the Raptors want to get one back on Cleveland, they’ll need Lowry and DeRozan to put in much bigger performances than they have been so far in this series. Ultimately though, they won’t be able to keep up, and the Cavs will run out 110-102 winners.
The game will be broadcast nationally on ABC. Tip-off is at 8:30pm ET.
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