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Flipping the Script vs. Cavs Begins with the Raptors’ Backcourt – Bleacher Report

Sports 04 May 2017
Flipping the Script vs. Cavs Begins with the Raptors’ Backcourt – Bleacher Report

Toronto RaptorsFlipping the Script vs. Cavs Begins with the Raptors' BackcourtJosh MartinNBA Lead WriterMay 3, 2017Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan (10) drives past Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith (5) in the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Monday, May 1, 2017, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 116-105. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors are 8-2 all time in playoff games when Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan score at least 20 points apiece.

On Monday, Lowry landed 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and DeRozan fell one point shy of that mark in an 11-point Game 1 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Come Wednesday, Lowry hit 20 on the dot again before succumbing to a sore left ankle, but DeRozan didn’t even sniff double digits—a playoff career-low five points, to be exact—en route to a 125-103 blowout defeat for the Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena in Game 2.

In truth, Toronto’s latest lopsided loss in The Land came down to more than backcourt scoring.

Let’s start with those 125 points Toronto gave up. That number doubled as the most ever scored by Cleveland in a playoff game and the most ever allowed by the Raptors in the postseason. The Cavaliers shot 54.7 percent from the floor, canned 18 threes—including a scorching 8-of-8 start—and notched nearly twice as many free-throw attempts (34-19) while edging Toronto on the glass (40-37). LeBron James took 21 freebies, not counting his taunting spin in front of Serge Ibaka, amid a 39-point night that put him second all-time in postseason scoring.

Kyrie Irving (22 points, 11 assists) scored more than either of them. So did Cory Joseph, who scored 18 of his 22 points after Lowry limped off for good late in the third quarter.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The only win for the Raptors: a 50-32 advantage in paint points, bolstered by Jonas Valanciunas’ team-high 23 points. Of those, 19 came in the first half and all were scored off the bench, after head coach Dwane Casey moved Patrick Patterson and Norman Powell into the starting lineup for Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll.

Not that either change wound up as anything better than shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Patterson scored three points in 18 minutes. Powell, who finished with eight points, landed on Lowry’s left ankle early in the third quarter.

But like years past, as the backcourt goes, so goes Toronto.

The Raptors were already drowning in the Cuyahoga River by the time their All-Star point guard hobbled off to the locker room, largely because DeRozan didn’t scratch from the field until he opened the fourth period with a seven-footer. That bucket snapped an 0-of-9 start, but by then, Toronto was already staring down a 24-point hole and would never creep closer than 21.

Can Toronto survive a series against Cleveland without DeRozan, the NBA’s fifth-highest scorer during the regular season, doing his thing?

“No, we can’t,” Casey said, per TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. “To be honest with you, we can’t.”

Nor can the Raptors hold a candle to their Eastern Conference tormentors if Lowry is either iffy or out entirely. According to TSN’s Matthew Scianitti, he didn’t undergo any significant treatment in the locker room after the game.

Matthew Scianitti @TSNScianitti

Inside #Raptors locker room, Kyle Lowry doesn't have any visible ice pack or band around his left ankle.

5/4/2017, 2:07:33 AM

Squeezing more scoring out of him and DeRozan won’t keep the Cavaliers from piling up points, per se. But Cleveland can’t push the pace quite so easily off of opponent makes the way it does when teams like Toronto shoot 46.7 percent from the floor and make just 5-of-17 from three-point range.

There may not be much anyone can do to truly shut down an offense that surrounds the game’s pre-eminent players with three-point shooters. Every Cavalier other than Tristan Thompson can hit from deep, and every Cavalier who launched a three on Wednesday made at least one.

Short of emptying a string of fire extinguishers on Cleveland’s bench, Toronto’s best bet in this matchup may be to spark its own offensive blaze and hope for the best.

Lowry and DeRozan are both capable of leading such a charge. The former had little trouble finding openings against Cleveland’s porous defense in Game 2. Even after injuring his ankle, Lowry was able to wheel around Kevin Love for a layup.

DeRozan is no stranger to torching the Cavaliers. In three regular-season meetings with Cleveland, he averaged 29.7 points, and twice put up 32 points during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Both of those postseason scoring explosions came in Toronto. Each was accompanied by a big night from Lowry: 20 points in Game 3, 35 in Game 4.

Those two outings count among the Raptors’ eight playoff wins when Lowry and DeRozan both go bonkers. Toronto will need a repeat of that history from its All-Star guards this coming Friday and Sunday at the Air Canada Centre to make things interesting against the defending champs.

Otherwise, the Raptors will once again be whisked into the offseason by the Cavaliers—and left to wonder whether keeping Lowry, a likely free agent, next to DeRozan is the team’s best path past annual extinction.

All stats via NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and listen to his Hollywood Hoops podcast with B/R Lakers lead writer Eric Pincus.

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