The Cavs, Raptors matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals is now a series, after Toronto took Game 3 of the series. Here’s five lessons learned in defeat.
1. Don’t overreact. Teams do lose playoff games. This one’s magnified because it was Cleveland’s first postseason loss of the 2016 NBA Playoffs.
As a native Clevelander who just experienced the “Believeland” documentary, it’s probably sacrilegious to even have this thought, but at least the season finally got a little exciting as the Cavs stare down adversity for the first time.
“It is a little adversity. Why not?” James said after the game. “It’s the postseason and you lose a game. This is our first loss of the postseason. I would count it as a little adversity.”
2. James gave fans the quote of the playoffs. When asked about why he doesn’t retaliate in reaction to other players on the court. LBJ used some his friend Jay-Z’s lyrics to express his feelings, via Ohio.com.
“At the end of the day, I’m important to this team. I can’t react in any kind of way that will get me thrown out of a game, but I will protect myself,” James said. “I always think back to the Jay-Z phrase and a line he had: ‘If I shoot you, then I”m brainless; if you shoot me, you’re famous. What am I to do?’ That always plays in my head. Every time I feel like I want to react, I’ve got to keep my brain.”
3. With the exception of James, the Cavs; superstars stunk. Kyrie Irving was 3-of-19. Kevin Love was 1-of-9. These guys are supposed to be the elitist of the elite. They can have bad games, but not in the Eastern Conference Semifinals when you’ve got a chance to put your foot on the Raptors throat.
Irving’s EXCESSIVE dribbling put my kids to sleep, and Love only grabbed four rebounds! He’s supposed to be a premier rebounder. The Cavs need better performances from these two, and can’t afford to have both go sour on the same night.
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On the flip side, James scored 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting, however even James was stricken by the 3-point bug, going 1-of-5 from behind the arc.
3. Bismack Biyombo had the best game of his career. He collected 26 rebounds–a Raptors franchise record– cleaning more glass than the entire Cavs’ front court in the process. The Raptors are playing for their season and Biyambo’s boards–10 of which came of the first quarter–showed the Raptors weren’t going to go quietly.
4. Tristan Thompson is usually the one irritating teams by giving the Cavs’ second-chance opportunities, but Biyambo really appears to be annoying the TT.
Thompson has zero points and just one field-goal attempt. He had 8 rebounds (2 offensive) just 1/2 rebound below his playoff average, but wasn’t noticeable. For a player who gets noticed for his hustle, Biyambo really stifled Thompson.
5. The Raptors are scared of the Cavs’ 3-point shooting. It showed in Games 1 and 2 when Toronto’s defense was geared at taking the long ball away.
But the Cavs said no problem, and started taking it to the rack. The Raptors got exposed in a big way because Cleveland couldn’t be stopped.
However, in the Game 3 loss, Cleveland got away from driving the lane and started settling for 3-pointers. They took more 3’s (41) than 2’s (38), and when the shots from beyond the arc went clanks, the Cavs failed to change their gameplan.
I know. Analytics. But when you’re cold, you’re cold, and the Cavs were freezing. Perhaps the occasional 10-footer would’ve helped one of the Cavs stars find their rhythm.