The amount of breakdowns we had, you can't win that way. On Monday night, the Wine and Gold seized control early and held off a pair of Raptors' runs. Their coach Dwane Casey shifted Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll to the bench and started Patrick Patterson and Norman Powell, looking for a spark that did not come.
Two nights earlier, James shot a three-pointer over Toronto shot-blocker Ibaka, but not before pausing to spin the ball twice in his hands, as if he was lining up to shoot a free throw.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James reacts after stealing the ball next to Toronto Raptors forward PJ Tucker in the third quarter in Game 2 of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on May 3, 2017.
It would be hard for Toronto not to be more competitive at home Friday night, but the Cavs are just playing on a different level at the moment. LeBron James was not the same guy that owned the court in Cleveland through those first two games, but he didn't need to be. They'd missed their first 12 three-point attempts before Powell finally ended the long-range drought with 3:09 to play in the third quarter.
In the process, he eclipsed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the second-leading scorer in NBA Playoff history. That's one of our three things to look for in tonight's Game 3.
For several days now, the talk had been not about whether the Raptors would win, but whether the Cavs were troubled by them in the least.
If last season is any indication, the Raptors certainly have a shot to win Game 3. And with the NBA's alpha dog smelling blood in this one, the Wine and Gold would love to add one more opponent to their unblemished list. J.R. Smith isn't the most imposing figure in the game, but he has been plenty physical with DeRozan through two games in Cleveland.
The morning after one of the worst losses of his National Basketball Association career, DeMar DeRozan couldn't wait to face Cleveland again.
"I addressed that in the locker room after the game", Lue said in his post-game press conference May 3 after the Cavs pounded the Raptors, 125-103, in Game 2.
The three-time all-star missed 21 games late in the regular season after undergoing wrist surgery. And will the Raptors make any lineup tweaks after adjusting their starting lineup ahead ahead of Game 2.
James would finish with 35 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Each time DeRozan was held to single digits in the playoffs, his team lost.
The Raptors, playing without injured point guard Kyle Lowry, led by three points after the first half.
If he's unable to go, the Raptors can take solace in backup Corey Joseph, who had a pair of solid performances against the Cavaliers in last year's ECF and, on Monday night, notched 18 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter (albeit during garbage time).
As far as 30-plus point playoff games go, James tied Kobe Bryant at 88, with, again, Jordan the only one left to chase. If there was ever going to be a way to hang with this collection of outside bombers guided by the exceptional all-around game of James, those bomb sights were going to have to be a tad off - and the Raptors would have to convert their open looks.
James, who takes great pride in his defense and has frequently shut down the opposition's top threat in the closing moments of tight games throughout his career, politely disagreed. These two games are over.