It’s a lot easier said than done, but the Raptors can win Game 2 in Cleveland if they make a couple of adjustments going forward.
In Game 1, LeBron James led all scorers with 35 points on route to a 116-105 victory to take a 1-0 lead over the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Cavs controlled the game from start to finish, and even though the Raptors made several runs of their own, the Cavs promptly answered back erasing all hopes of a Raptors’ comeback.
Looking to Game 2, here are some changes the Raptors must make if they wish to even the series before heading back to the Air Canada Centre.
Jonas Valanciunas off the Bench
Valanciunas’ effort was there in Game 1, but it’s apparent that his matchup against the Cavs’ frontcourt is an issue on both ends of the floor. Defensively he posted a 136.9 rating in Game 1 to go along with six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
In order for Valanciuans to get reasonable minutes he must defend, rebound, or dominate offensively. While it’s only one game, Valanciunas struggles against the Bucks in round one have shifted to the series against the Cavs.
Like the previous series, it appears to be in the Raptors best interest if Valanciunas comes off the bench for a more favourable matchup against the Cavs second unit.
This move also allows the Raptors to use their best defenders like Patrick Patterson, Serge Ibaka, Jakob Poeltl and Norman Powell to limit the Cavs offence. Valanciunas was often too slow to be effective against the Cavs spread out offence.
Attack the paint
One of the Raptors’ strengths is scoring in the paint. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are at their best when they get inside the coloured part of the floor.
The penetration by the Raptors’ all-stars allows DeRozan to get to the line, where he’s shooting 92 per cent this post season. Lowry also benefits by getting easier buckets and creating space for teammates to make open shots.
The Cavs have struggled defending the paint this post season. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are not strong rim protectors and the Cavs rank ninth (out of 16) in opponent points in the paint in the playoffs.
Per game, the Cavs are allowing opponents to score 42.4 points in the paint. It’s an area that the Raptors need to be more aggressive in and look to exploit to get easier baskets.
One of the biggest takeaways from Game 1 was the Raptors lack of transition defence. The Raptors cut an 18-point deficit to just five points and got as close as two points in Game 1.
However, they allowed the Cavs to maintain their lead by simply not getting back on defence. When the Raptors turned the ball over, the Cavs prompted to run on the fast break which led to several three-pointers by the Cavs.
One notable example came about when the Raptors pulled within two, trailing 39-41. Lowry had just scored, but the Cavs came down the floor to hit back-to-back three-pointers from JR Smith and Kevin Love.
The Cavs’ lead ballooned from there.
It’s those kinds of small defensive lapses that the Raptors can not afford to make against a championship caliber team like the Cavs if they wish to win. They must do their best to get back in transition and defend if they want to have any chance of tying this series in Game 2 on Wednesday.
Article by: Papa Orleans-Minnow