In the days after the Cleveland Cavaliers' 18-point win in Toronto Thursday night, a game that gave the reigning Eastern Conference champions a commanding lead in the best-of-seven series, LeBron James still wasn't satisfied.He pointed to the team's shoddy defensive showing in Game 2 and believed the Cavs needed to be much better Saturday night.Message received.Against the Raptors, a quality night on defense starts with containing All-Star DeMar DeRozan, the top name on Cleveland's defensive scouting report and the spark plug of Toronto's typically explosive offense that ranked third in the National Basketball Association this season, behind just Houston and Golden State.The Cavs did more than contain him Saturday.
The Raptors tried to adapt to the style of play that's supposed to expose the Cavaliers defence, instead, it has pushed James to take his game to another level. This shot may be hard to remember as LeBron has stacked his resume mightly in the past nine years, but this moment is sure to make the cut when his tribute video is one day being played. But then again, is LeBron human or an Avenger? Game Three was his 227th postseason contest, including four buzzer-beaters, according to NBA.com.
Imagine if the Raptors were able to get by in Game 1 or tonight, this would be a different narrative but now down 0-3, the chances look rather tough. There's not much a team can do other than try to avoid that situation altogether. He just needed to be a factor, and he succeeded, scoring 21 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Kyle Korver hit four 3s and settled with 18 while Jeff Green added 11 off the bench. Toronto attempted to trim the lead only to have Cleveland beat it back to lead by 14 going into the final quarter.
James, who was shadowed by rookie OG Anunoby, began improvising as he came up the court, quickly escaping Toronto's planned double-team as he drove toward the left side. And then LeBron happened.
This was one part gut punch, one part yank-out-their-hearts-and-show-them-to-the-Raptors-before-they-die, as far as the cruelty involved. Cleveland may hold a 3-0 series lead, but it's unbelievable to think that they still aren't playing their best yet. Getting out of this hole is like scaling the peak of Mt. Everest without climbing tools and winter clothing. You can make your own decision on whether or not it was cocky.
"It was extraordinarily laborious, extraordinarily laborious", DeRozan stated of being benched by coach Dwane Casey within the fourth. DeRozan only finished the game with eight points and was a minus -23 on the game.
Raptors coach Dwyane Casey said the plan was to trap James.
With the score tied at 103 and eight seconds remaining, Cleveland used its final timeout to prepare for the last possession of regulation. They can't pull that off without a fully engaged DeRozan on the floor. It definitely sucks to be watching ... we've got to give credit to those guys.
As it was, the Raptors scored 38 points in the final 12 minutes, two points shy of their first-half total. It was one of the best. As the game went on and the Cavaliers held the lead, the adjustments kept coming, and it still didn't feel like enough.
"Fight", Lowry said when asked what's next.
To the funeral director.