1. The Cavs’ stars were simply better.
The stars were out in this series per usual as the Raptors and the Cavs have some of the most well known stars in the eastern conference on their rosters. The Cavs have their rag-tag team of older stars assorted throughout and the Raptors have their their duo consisting of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Along with that duo, center Jonas Valancunias has emerged as a key player for the Raptors.
Also known as Kyle ‘Lousy’ and DeMar ‘DeFrozen’, both are perennial clowns who like to play jokes on their team as well as their fan base when the playoffs come around. Better yet, they turn into Houdini and end up making themselves disappear. The act is up though as it’s become an expectation from seemingly every other person except for the Raptors themselves that they’re going home early in the playoffs.
This playoff series in which the Raptors were eliminated in was a bit of a switch up for the team though. Usually, it’s Lowry that becomes invisible or turns into a master brick tosser but that was not necessarily the case. It was DeRozan that turned invisible when he was needed the most.
However, it may not even have been completely DeRozan’s fault for this issue. This is because he was actually on the bench rather than just watching from a corner on the floor. In Game 3, DeRozan was benched in the fourth quarter while his team was entrenched in a close battle that was very winnable near the end. Yes, the Raptors’ comeback in that game was fueled by DeRozan being benched at the beginning of the run but that does not mean he should have remained on the bench.
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As a team, would it be more beneficial to have the best scorer on the team have the ball in his hands at the end or not? In the Raptors’ case, they’d much rather have their true scorer on the bench and completely out of the picture in crunch time. How does that make sense in a playoff scenario? The team pays him truck loads of money just to sit on the bench during their franchise’s biggest moments? That is absolutely ludicrous.
Instead, the team is very comfortable allowing Lowry to find ways to lose games as many times as possible. It’s just a never ending cycle for the Raptors as they never change their ways but expect different results.
That right there is the definition of insanity. Lowry can score as many points as he wants during the game but it’s not advisable for him to have the ball when it counts. Lowry accrued 18 points and nine assists per game and DeRozan accrued 17 points and three assists per game in this series.
Kevin Love and LeBron both had a great series. As mentioned earlier, the Raptors could not check LeBron nor Love for that matter which served as a major flaw which the Cavs easily exposed. LeBron and Love both averaged a double-double with LeBron averaging over 30 points and Love averaging over 20 points.
The duo of LeBron and Love was even more difficult to stop considering how the rest of the Cavs stepped up as well. The other big names who were expected to contribute on the roster provided consistent assistance each time it was necessary. Players like Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Jeff Green, and George Hill from the supporting cast stepped up immensely which have allowed the Cavs to play as well as they have. They each averaged over ten points per game.
LeBron will always play well enough to keep the team in the game and in a position to win. Now when the supporting cast starts getting involved, that’s when we start to see the Cavs blow teams out. The supporting cast didn’t do too much nor did they do too little. They added just enough support when needed to supplement LeBron’s contributions and then they would back off when LeBron decided to take over.
What has been very interesting to watch during this series is how the supporting cast has allowed LeBron to basically be on cruise control during the first half. It was almost predictable when LeBron would decide to start taking over in the third quarter and drive the Raptors into the ground.
It would turn into repeated iso-ball domination and quick drives all the way up the court through the paint. At that point, the supporting cast was keeping the Raptors so honest on defense that all they could do was watch as LeBron took every defender and score on them from every spot on the court.
With the stars of this series in mind, let’s rewind to last series. The Pacers took the Cavs to seven game series because Victor Olapdipo is easily a top five, if not top three player in the east behind players like LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Oladipo consistently put up great numbers and was impossible to defend. The same thing is never expected from Lowry and DeRozan.
Oladipo’s relentlessness and great skill to go along with it was incredibly difficult to defend. It’s tough to say the Cavs weren’t exactly preparing to defend Oladipo as that kind of threat in the early parts of the series but it was certainly evident the Cavs had done something wrong following Oladipo’s huge 32 point game one. Oladipo led all players in points in two out of the three games the Cavs lost to the Pacers.