LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers play the Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Air Canada Centre. Here’s five things to watch for as the Cavs try to take a 3-1 series lead.
1. LeBron James is going to shoot the ball more than 17 times tonight. Cleveland can’t afford to see this series evened at two games a piece. The great teams and the great players finish off opponents fighting for their last breath. If there’s a positive to the Raptors winning one game, it’s that the fans of Cleveland can see the Cavaliers win the Eastern Conference Crown on their home floor.
Cavs’ coach Ty Lue recognized Cleveland needs to get the ball into the hands of its best player following the Game 3 loss, via ESPN.com.
“I think I should have called more plays to make [James] dominant,” Lue said Sunday. “I think we continued to run plays that had been effective and working throughout the course of this series, knowing that Kyrie and Kevin could get going at any time. I should have put the ball in LeBron’s hands a little bit more to let him create and let him draw double-teams. So that was more on me.”
2. If this is indeed the game plan, Cavs fans may want to expect a little ebb and flow within the offense.
Of course LeBron needs to get his shots, but he can’t fall into the trap of dribble, dribble, dribble and then jacking up a deep 3-pointer.
This style of play is something Cavs fans saw too much of this season, and it’s a trap the team has mostly avoided in it’s dominant run through the playoffs. Ball movement, with LeBron facilitating from the perimeter, or the post, was a big reason Cleveland destroyed the Raptors in Games 1 and 2, in addition to Atlanta and Boston along the way.
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3. Kyrie Irving better play like he has something to prove. He was 3-of-19 from the field and had 1 assist in 38 minutes. The Raptors crowded the Cavs’ superstar guard, making him a focal point of their defensive strategy.
4. Kevin Love will be a focal point of the Cavs offense. He had zero points at halftime of Game 3 and just one field goal in the entire contest. It’s imperative the Cavs get Love going because when he’s clicking on offense, the offense just seems to play better.
With Love clicking on all cylinders, the Cavs can space the floor and go back to taking it to the rim–a strategy that worked wonders in Game 1 and 2.
It was disturbing to see Biyombo get those 26 boards in Game 3. TT is getting paid the big bucks to perform at this time of year. Biyombo can’t be the factor he was in Game 3 and Thompson has to make sure of it.
A Raptors win in Game 4 isn’t fatal, but it would be a defeat you could chalk up to the “huge kick to the gut” category. The Cavs are so much more talented than Toronto. Allowing the Raptors to even this series would create adversity and panic in what’s been a relatively smooth playoff run.
Even a tied series coming back to Cleveland, the Cavs would still be big favorites to advance, but this team can’t give new life to the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan.