NBA PlayoffsNBA Playoffs 2017: Wednesday TV Schedule and Semifinal PredictionsThomas DuffyFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2017Eric Gay/Associated Press
Monday night's playoff games were wild.
First, the Cleveland Cavaliers straight-up embarrassed the Toronto Raptors. The game's 116-105 final score belied how much of a beatdown this was. Toronto's only lead was 3-0 to begin the first quarter, which quickly became a Cavaliers dunk show.
Check out the slams in NBA.com's Intel 360 Replay:
LeBron James & Iman Shumpert throw down the SLAMS powered by @intel 360 replay technology. https://t.co/3HmUGvUMat
5/2/2017, 12:35:20 AM
Cleveland stretched out its lead to 25 points in the third quarter before cruising in the fourth.
This was a whooping, for sure, but it was expected. The blowout that took place in the Western Conference caught the basketball world by surprise.
Thanks to barrage of 22 three-pointers on 44-percent shooting, the Houston Rockets demolished the San Antonio Spurs, 129-99. It was the most points Gregg Popovich's team surrendered all year, breezing past the New Orleans Pelicans' 119 on Jan. 27.
Will Wednesday's Game 2 matchups be different? You can find predictions and a how-to-watch guide below.
|Raptors @ Cavaliers||Game 2||7 p.m. ET||Quicken Loans Arena||TNT|
|Rockets @ Spurs||Game 2||9:30 p.m. ET||AT&T Center||TNT|
You can stream both games via TNT, here.
Eastern Conference: Cavaliers keep rolling
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
LeBron James, who dropped 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting to go along with 10 boards, was having so much fun in Game 1 that he pretended to take a sip of beer:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Peak trolling from LeBron 😂 https://t.co/VaO2S1jysg
5/2/2017, 12:51:02 AM
That's a kick in the teeth for the Raptors.
Even with P.J. Tucker—who was acquired at the February trade deadline with this series in mind—Toronto was helpless against the King. Kyrie Irving chipped in 24 points and 10 assists, too.
After the loss, head coach Dwane Casey was offended that a reporter used the term "dominated" to describe his team.
Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver passed along video:
Ben Golliver @BenGolliver
Reporter: The Cavaliers "dominated" the Raptors Dwane Casey: "I don't know if you're a fan… I wouldn't use the word 'dominate'." https://t.co/U7m29kIlQQ
5/2/2017, 2:02:45 AM
Here's the thing: They were dominated.
And, as long as Cleveland has LeBron, the Raptors will continue to be overwhelmed. Casey gushed about No. 23 after the "dominated" exchange, per Swish Appeal's Ashley Bastock:
Ashley Bastock @AshleyBastock42
Dwane Casey on the difference between the Cavs and Raptors last year in the ECF… basically, LeBron. https://t.co/bjJzeME1Di
5/1/2017, 9:32:48 PM
Could Toronto steal a game at a raucous Air Canada Centre? Sure. But that's all. For the second year in a row, Cleveland should step comfortably over Casey's club en route to the NBA Finals.
Expect Cleveland to retain control of the series with another commanding performance at home in Game 2.
Western Conference: Popovich struggles to adapt
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Game 1's loss to Houston wasn't just embarrassing; it was historic, per ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Rockets' 27-pt Game 1 road win at Spurs is tied for 2nd-largest in NBA postseason history Largest? The Jazz's 39-pt win vs Suns in 1991
5/2/2017, 4:34:16 AM
For more context, look no further than NBA.com's lead tracker:
Gregg Popovich is an all-time great coach. And after all-time great coaches get slapped in the mouth, their teams usually come out firing.
You'd think that would be the case in Game 2, right? San Antonio responds, evens the series and calms the storm.
Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post isn't so sure.
On Tuesday, he wrote that Popovich's unwillingness to adapt in playoff series—which, in this case, would involve smaller ball against Houston's pop-a-shot offense—could be the Spurs' downfall.
"The fact Leonard played just two minutes as a small-ball power forward—against a team that spends so much time playing small to begin with—was something that seemed like an obvious fix," Bontemps said.
"So, too, was playing Dewayne Dedmon, easily San Antonio’s best defensive big. Instead, Dedmon was glued to the bench until long after the game was decided (and then he came in and scored six points in seven minutes before getting ejected for picking up a pair of technicals)."
Popovich said of the loss on Monday, per Bontemps: "I don't think we executed in a very wise manner. We disobeyed a lot of basic basketball rules that they can take advantage of."
That doesn't sound like someone willing to bend in his beliefs.
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
If Popovich continues to give heavy minutes to David Lee, Houston will continue to attack him on the pick-and-roll.
As CBS Sports' Matt Moore noted, Lee and fellow big man LaMarcus Aldridge were dreadful together:
Hardwood Paroxysm @HPbasketball
Pop played Aldridge and David Lee together for a quarter in the first-half. Their defensive rating was 145.
5/2/2017, 3:06:41 PM
Whether Pop adjusts or not, it's unlikely San Antonio gets whacked by nearly 30 again. But if he doesn't, a win is even more unlikely.