What else can you say after watching the way the Cavs smashed the Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern conference finals?
Toronto started off with a 7-0 lead to begin the game and it went back and forth until the end of the first quarter. It was in the second quarter when the Cavs went small and into their bench with a lineup of LeBron James, Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. That lethal five-man lineup was plus 25 in 37 playoff minutes so far this post season. They blew the game wide open and the Cavs never looked back taking a 66-44 lead into the half. It was in the second quarter that there was a dunkfest held by Lebron, first catching a nice alley-oop from Delly, and then driving baseline for the dunk heard round the world! Toronto had no answer and simply couldn’t defend the physical play by LeBron. The King was aggressive throughout the game and really set the tone for the Cavs to impose their will on the over matched Raptors.
Kyrie Irving was unstoppable getting to the rim and showing off one of the best handles in the game. He was also as good on D as he’s ever been, harassing Kyle Lowry into a very tough night. In the regular season, Irving ranked 83rd out of 85 point guards in defensive real plus-minus; a player’s estimated on-court impact on team defensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, as a primary defender in Game 1, Irving held the Raptors to 4-12 from the floor. Lowry ended up 4-8 when guarded by Irving, DeRozan was 0-1, and Cory Joseph 0-3.
On the offensive end, he was 11-17 from the field, and ended the night with 27 points to go along with 5 assists in his 30 minutes. He scored at the rim at will and was money on mid-range pull-ups.
“He’s special. He’s that special, man. He’s much better than an All-Star. Much better than an All-Star,” LeBron James said. “I mean, there would never be a question if Kyrie Irving is the MVP, as long as he’s on the floor and he’s healthy.”
LeBron chimed in with an awesome stat line too with 24 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists on 11-13 shooting in 28 minutes. He punished the Raptors in the lane and had them question their obvious plan of defending the three point line. LeBron lived in the key, at halftime his average field goal distance (he hadn’t missed) was 1.3 feet from the rim! All of LeBron’s 11 field goals came at the rim in his 28 minutes with the Raptors choosing not to rotate help from the shooters or send double teams to help DeMare Carroll out. When LeBron is playing that aggressive, going to the rim and not seeing double teams, it’s good night for the opponent.
The Cavs were dominant in the paint and on the glass all night out-rebounding the Raptors, 45-23 and outscoring them as well 56-36. Dwayne Casey and company need to realize that guarding the three point line and leaving Kyrie and LeBron in one on one match-ups with open driving lanes, is like playing Russian Roulette with all 6 bullets in the chamber. I bet they will go the way of the Hawks and Pistons, try to pack the paint and hope they miss.
Lucky for the Raptors they don’t believe they’re in trouble.
“We’ve been here before. We’ve lost the first game of every round so far,” reserve James Johnson said. “You lose by 20, you lose by 40, you lose by two, it’s still a loss. We lose, we still regroup and find out what we have to do regardless the margin of the L.”
“That’s just Game 1,” Valanciunas said. “There’s nothing set yet. We still got six games to go. Anything can happen.”
Remember, the Spurs won by 40 in Game 1 against the Thunder last round and look how that series ended up. Unfortunately for Toronto, they don’t have the firepower and talent OKC has, to pull off the upset. Cleveland will look to come out attacking again in game 2 and everyone on the Cavs seems to be finding their role in what looks like a Championship caliber team.