Does Toronto Show Any Grit Game 3 in Cleveland?

cavs raptors

Doug Upstone

Friday, May 4, 2018 3:54 PM UTC

Friday, May. 4, 2018 3:54 PM UTC

Wasn't it just last week we had a shovel and a hole dug ready to bury the Cleveland Cavaliers? Turns out the demise of the Cavs was premature as they return home to play Toronto on Saturday up 2-0 in the series.

Toronto (6-6 ATS Road Dog) at Cleveland (11-29-1 ATS Home Fave)Free NBA Pick: RaptorsBest Line Offered: 5Dimes

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The Toronto Raptors shot 54.3 percent from the field, 40 percent from behind the arc and made 10 off 11 free throws on Thursday at home against Cleveland in Game 2. And they still lost by 18.

We will get to LeBron James in a second, but Kevin Love's 31 points were eight more than the Raptors' starting frontcourt scored. ESPN had an article about how much Love has given up in order to be paired with James. And in this series, coach Tyronn Lue has asked Love to play center rather than power forward for schematic reasons, and Love admitted he wasn't crazy about but now he understands why.

LeBron, he just had 43 points and 14 assists and during the game, Twitter was alive with NBA players flat-out amazed what the King was doing.

The Cavs are back home trying to build a virtually insurmountable 3-0 lead and the NBA odds have them as a 4.5-point favorite with a total of 217. This will be on at 8:35 ET Saturday on ABC.

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Raptors Defense Is Prehistorically Ineffective

So much for all the qualities for those who picked Toronto to win the series. Point guard Kyle Lowry has it partially correct: "Just needed more effort. Way more effort. We have to play harder."

What All-Star DeMar DeRozan said after the embarrassing loss made no sense. "We down two, OK," he said. "It's the first one to win four. It's not over. Take it one game at a time and go from there."

In the NBA playoffs, there have been 26 instances of a home team being down 0-2 and only four times have they come back to win the series.

Where Toronto can help themselves the most is defensive pressure. After two games the Raptors have forced eight turnovers, as in EIGHT. It's not like Toronto is not capable of doing better, as they were 12th in the league this season at forcing 13.7 per game. But they are continually out of position, seldom up on their man on defense and nobody is anticipating a pass, otherwise, there would be more tipped balls.

Unless Toronto has the right defensive mindset, they will be one game away from elimination at the end of Saturday night.

Cleveland Coaching Clinic

Having LeBron makes Lue a smarter coach since James basketball intellect is from another era. Nonetheless, Lue had a masterful game plan coming into the series and his players are making it work.

Coaching in the playoffs often tells you something about head coaches and their staffs. In these instances, you face the same opponent game after game and look to advance. That is why Lue having Love play center is so smart because Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas is not going to be effective 23 feet from the rim. and if and when he does come out Love can beat him off the dribble or find cutter without a rim protector.

Coach Dwane Casey has been forced to switch smaller players on to Love, whom he can shoot over or see teammates to pass to easier because of the height differential. Simply stated, pure genius by Lue.

What to Expect?

For NBA picks, let's go out on a limb and say Casey designs a defensive game plan that is about tight man-to-man and overplaying passing lanes when James does not have the ball. If LeBron gets 50, fine, contain everyone else.

Maybe Cleveland is just a bad matchup for Toronto, but two games do not a season make and the Cavaliers are 11-29-1 ATS as home favorites. With the Raptors rears planted directly up against the wall, they are 11-2 ATS on the road after two or more losses. Let's see what kind of grit Toronto has in their soul.

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