After losing Game 1, the Toronto Raptors made changes to their starting lineup to better match the Cleveland Cavaliers. Out went DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas, in came Norman Powell and Patrick Patterson.
But just like in Game 1, the Cavs were simply better than the Raptors. After a 125-103 win Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Cavs lead the series 2-0 as it shifts to Toronto — the same as last year when these teams played in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Cavs got ahead in the first behind a 12-0 run that was capped off by a J.R. Smith three-pointer with 5:54 to play. Kyle Lowry responded with a three for Toronto, but the Cavs just responded with more offense. Channing Frye came off the bench to hit two threes and Cleveland finished the quarter up 34-22. The Cavs shot 70.6 percent from the field in the first and made all five of their three-point attempts.
Frye hit another three to open the Cavs’ second quarter and James, with a 15 point second quarter, bumped Cleveland’s lead up to 14 in the half. In the quarter, coach Tyronn Lue only played the LeBron-plus-bench unit the team has come to rely on for around three minutes. And during the second, the Cavs’ lead never slipped below nine. They lead 62-48 at the half. For Toronto, DeMar DeRozan scored just 1 first half point. He finished with 5.
The only frustrating moment of the half – and, really, the game - came when Love, with 5:29 to go in the quarter, was called for a technical foul after arguing a call. Shortly after, he was called for a blocking foul and sat on the ground for a moment in frustration.
In the beginning moments of the third, as James scored, Lowry went down underneath the basket after it looked like he stepped on Powell’s ankle. He limped off the floor without help from Raptors personnel, but returned with 10:18 to play in the third. He, though, went back to the locker room near the end of the quarter and did not return.
The Cavs, though, continued to roll. James had a 17 point third quarter to pushes the Cavs’ lead to 26 after three. Irving – after a 7-point, 2-11 first half – dropped 15 points in the third as well. He also had 11 assists, surpassing the playoff career-high of 10 he set in Game 1.
In the fourth, a Frye three with 9:31 to go put the Cavs up 30. LeBron checked out for good with 6:10 to go. On the night, he finished with 39 points on 14 shots, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 37 minutes. He also passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second all-time in playoff scoring.
Where Cleveland separated itself from Toronto was with sheer volume, particularly from deep. The Raptors took 17 threes, the Cavs made 18. At the top, DeRozan and Lowry combined by 25 points. James and Irving combined for 61 on a night where Irving was 6-19 from the field with Love adding 9 points of his own.
The Cavs, through two games have beat the Raptors by a combined 33 points; last year, the margin was 50. Last year, the Cavs dropped two games in Toronto before wrapping up the series in six. This time around, the only questions seems to be ‘Will the series last that long again?’.
Cavs-Raptors Game 3 tips of Friday at 7 p.m. in Toronto.