A few weeks after shaking their Game 1 curse in a win over the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors were in fantastic possession to begin their second round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers on a positive note. Then, the “old Raptors” emerged, with a litany of missed opportunities in the second half and, after 53 minutes of game time, Toronto succumbed to LeBron James and company in a 113-112 loss that swung home-court advantage back to the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
Much of the first half favored the home team, especially within the confines of the opening quarter. Toronto held a 14-point lead after 12 minutes and the Raptors knocked down 62 percent of their shots, including four three-pointers. In fact, the non-LeBron members of the Cavaliers scuffled to the tune of a 4-for-18 mark in the first quarter and, in short, the Raptors appeared to be in full control.
Of course, that early success proved too good to be true, as the Cavs awakened in the second period and remained closely engaged for the duration of the evening. After shooting 64 percent in the second quarter (aided by 11 points each from J.R. Smith and Jeff Green), the Cavs did cool in the third quarter. The Raptors threatened to pull away by taking a 13-point lead in the middle stages of the period, but from there, it was an exercise in slow, draining peril.
The Cavs eventually chased the Raptors down in the fourth quarter and Toronto’s offense imploded in very familiar fashion. The Raptors connected on only five of their 24 shots in the fourth quarter. Then, with an opportunity to put the game away in regulation, Toronto came up completely empty in bumbling fashion.
All told, the Raptors’ cold spell cost them an opportunity to win the game in the first 48 minutes.
From there, the overtime period wasn’t one for the highlight reels on either side, though an early three from Smith proved to be pivotal, albeit in glacial fashion.
After a hideous offensive possession that featured a heave from James that failed to draw rim, the Raptors (again) had a chance to emerge victorious and, this time, it was Fred VanVleet with the opportunity to seal it. However, his long-range attempt went begging.
Of course, the play of James was the biggest storyline on the Cleveland side, even on a night that featured 20 points from Smith, 19 points from Kyle Korver and 16 points (on four field goal attempts) from Green. The game’s best player was +5 in his 47 minutes of action and James finished the evening with 26 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds and plenty of highlight-worthy moments.
Beyond that, this will be a game that requires introspection on the side of the Raptors. Aside from the sideshow of Drake and Kendrick Perkins exchanging words on the floor, positivity is tough to come by for Toronto and the play of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry left plenty to be desired in the second half. On one hand, it would be easy to explain away the missed opportunities and a game that the Raptors controlled most of the way.
On the other, it is yet another reminder of the franchise’s playoff missteps and, with LeBron James on the other side and no home-court advantage the rest of the way, it could be an uphill battle for the East’s No. 1 seed.