Sometime life simply isn’t fair. The Toronto Raptors thought they built their best possible defense against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They brought back the core of the team that took the Cavs six games in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. They added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to sure up the defense. Not only did it not help, it made them look worse.
The Cavs wrapped up their second straight sweep and eleventh straight playoff win by taking down the Raptors 109-102. Kyle Lowry missed what could be his final game in Toronto with an ankle sprain. The trio of DeMar DeRozan, Ibaka and Corey Joseph tried their best to will their squad to victory, combining for 65 points. It wasn’t enough.
After the Raptors jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter LeBron began to go on his run. The first ended tied at 28 then the Cavs got full control of the game in the second. Kyle Korver must love playing in the Air Canada Centre because in two games he missed only four of the 13 shots he took from the field. In the second quarter Korver could not miss, racking up 18 for the quarter. Channing Frye added ten more off the bench and the rest was taken care of by LeBron and Kyrie Irving.
As has been the custom this postseason LeBron decided he would take over and there was little the Raptors could do in response. Tucker did the best job on LeBron, holding him scoreless for a stretch in the fourth, but prior to that the king ran wild. He ended the night with 35 points, nine rebounds, six assists and one block.
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 7, 2017
The best part of this win was how good Kyrie played down the stretch. He struggled early, but took over to start the fourth quarter. For the game he finished with 27 points, nine assists, four rebounds, four steals and one block. The scoring is expected, that is what has made Kyrie a household name, but this development in his assist total is encouraging. For the series he averaged 8.5 assists, well above his season average of 5.8 and career average of 5.6.
If this is the Kyrie we can expect the Cavs just got a whole lot more dangerous. That gives them too superstar facilitators that can take over a game at a moment’s notice. Kevin Love is the remaining member left to get his game together before the finals. Love has been able to clean the glass, but has struggled to score. Still, he and Tristan Thompson’s ability to control the boards has been huge during this run.
Up next the Cavs will welcome either the best backcourt in the East or the top seed. Regardless of who they draw the Cavs will have a week of rest to get ready. As long as LeBron is rested there is little hope for any opponent. We have already witnessed two solid teams get put away in four games, why should we expect anything different?
As for the Raptors, this loss sends them into a foggy offseason. LeBron looks like he still has another five years left in him. Lowry is a free agent this summer as is Ibaka. Is DeRozan the guy you build around? Do you blow this whole thing up and attempt to get a head start on the post-LeBron days?
“They’ve got LeBron James,” Lowry told Yahoo’s The Vertical. “Nobody’s closing the gap on him. I mean, that’s it right there: They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him.”
Lowry is correct. The same way Michael Jordan kept the East out of the finals is exactly what LeBron is doing right now. There are options available for Raptors GM Masai Ujiri and he will have to carefully review every single one. They gave the Cavs their best punch these last two years and came up short. It may be back to the drawing board as the Raptors close the book on one of the best stretches in their franchise.