CLEVELAND: In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Toronto Raptors limited the Cleveland Cavaliers’ three-point attempts. The Cavs just crushed the Raptors with dunks and layups.
In Game 2, the Raptors tried to protect the paint, forcing Cleveland to make threes instead of easy shots at the rim.
That didn’t work either. It wasn’t a three-point bombardment or a cavalcade of layups.
It was just a methodical exploitation by the better team. Cleveland relied on its Big 3 to beat the Raptors108-89 in Game 2 of the conference finals on Thursday.
James had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists—his 15th career playoff triple-double and first this postseason—and passed Shaquille O’Neal, moving into fourth place on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list.
Irving continued his stellar playoffs, scoring 26 points, and Love had 19 points. The Cavs’ offense continues to roll.
Cleveland—up 2-0 in the series —remains unbeaten in the postseason, becoming the first team since San Antonio in 2012 to win its first 10 playoff games. They have won 17 consecutive playoff games against Eastern Conference opponents dating to last season.
Game 3 is Saturday in Toronto.
The Raptors were better in Game 2 than they were in Game 1, and it was still a 19-point defeat. Raptors coach Dwane Casey went with a different lineup, starting Luis Scola in place of Patrick Patterson in attempt to give the bench a lift.
The injury to Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas has thinned Toronto’s depth with Bismack Biyombo starting at center.
“We’re going to change some things, just to make sure we have a balance in certain situations with our injury (to) Jonas [Valanciunas],” Casey said before Game 2. “We’ll adjust that a little bit as far as to see where we can get a little bit more balanced into the first, into the second [units].”
That lineup change gave Toronto’s bench a boost. Forward-guard Terrence Ross (11 points), guard Cory Joseph (11 points) and forward James Johnson (11 points) led a solid performance off the bench, but the starters struggled.
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry’s inconsistent postseason continue with a 4-of-14 game from the field. In two games, he is 8-of-28 from the field, including 1-of-15 on three-pointers. Toronto needs more from Lowry if it is going to win in Toronto.
DeMar DeRozan had another solid game with 22 points, but the Raptors can’t score enough against Cleveland. They shot just 40.2% from the field and 27.3% on three-pointers.
Cleveland pulled away at the end of the second quarter and start of the third quarter. It was 46-46 with 4:05 remaining in the half, and the Cavs closed the quarter on a 16-2 run. They opened up a 67-50 lead early in the third quarter, and it was 93-73 Cavs early in the fourth quarter.
The discrepancy in foul shots will be a topic of conversation leading up to Game 3. Cleveland shot 19 more free throws than the Raptors, and DeRozan and Lowry did not take a free throw in Game 1. Casey said it was the first time in 298 games that his All-Star guards went without a foul shot.
“We’ve got to continue to go in and continue to attack the paint, attack through the reach-in,” Casey said after Wednesday’s practice. “They’re a great team at reaching and trying to go for the rip. We’ve got to play through that, through that contact, and again, put the onus on the officials to make the correct call.”