Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sports

And Raptors looked near extinction

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Dwane Casey was about an hour from coaching the Toronto Raptors in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals, but first he wanted to list some concerns.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, he said, were rested. LeBron James had turned into a pass-first facilitator. Kevin Love had shot a crazy percentage from 3-point range through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs. J.R. Smith had committed to becoming a terrific defender. And the entire team had shown an ability to jump all over opponents in the first quarter.

Given this alarming set of factors, Casey sought to put a sunny spin on it.

"There shouldn't be any pressure on our guys," he said.

If the Raptors went into Game 1 on Tuesday night without any pressure, the Cavaliers made sure to provide some. It came in the form of dunks and 3-pointers, in blocked shots and swarming defense. The Cavaliers, who have yet to lose a game four weeks into the postseason, throttled the Raptors in a 115-84 victory at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.

Kyrie Irving scored 27 points, and James added 24. The Cavaliers shot 55.4 percent from the field to turn the whole evening into a glorified pickup game, though one with thousands of screaming fans, a national TV audience and a scoreboard known simply as Humongotron, which flashed an increasingly lopsided score.

The Cavaliers, who will host Game 2 tonight, led by 22 at halftime and by 28 at the end of the third quarter. DeMar DeRozan scored 18 points for the Raptors, who looked as if they had spent three months at sea before the game was 15 minutes old.

The Cavaliers and the Raptors took opposite paths to the conference finals. The Cavaliers swept their first two opponents and had a nine-day layoff. The Raptors, on the other hand, went the full seven games in each of the first two rounds.

The game got away from Toronto early in the second quarter. The Cavaliers' Channing Frye and Matthew Dellavedova came off the bench to drill back-to-back 3-pointers, and the lead was suddenly 11. Casey called a timeout. Unfortunately for the Raptors, the officiating crew allowed the Cavaliers to return to the court.

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