Rap­tors lose se­ries opener — again

SPORTS

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY LORI EWING

LeBron and com­pany too much for Rap­tors.

LeBron James, and the Cava­liers’ three-point shoot­ing spelled another Game 1 loss for the Toronto Rap­tors.

James scored 35 points to lift Cleve­land to a 116-105 vic­tory over Toronto in the open­ing game of the Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nals on Mon­day.

Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 11 as­sists, while DeMar DeRozan fin­ished with 19 points. P.J. Tucker had 13 points and 11 re­bounds, Serge Ibaka chipped in 15 points, and Nor­man Pow­ell fin­ished with 12 points.

But the Rap­tors had no answer for the Cavs’ three-point shoot­ing — the No. 2 team in the league in the reg­u­lar sea­son went 14 of 34 from be­yond the arc.

The loss dropped the Rap­tors to 1-12 in play­off se­ries open­ers, their lone vic­tory com­ing in the sec­ond round against Philadel­phia in 2001.

In a game of wild runs, the Rap­tors would trail by as little as two points last in the sec­ond quar­ter, and by as many as 25 late in the third. The Cava­liers

led 96-74 to start the fourth quar­ter.

But the Rap­tors would come no closer than 16 points over the fi­nal 12 min­utes, and when Chan­ning Frye drove to the hoop for a dunk with two min­utes to play, it put the Cavs up by 22 points, and victorious Cleve­land fans be­gan to bolt for the ex­its. Both coaches then emp­tied their benches.

The Rap­tors shot 44 per cent on the night, and were 10 of 26 from three-point range. They coughed up 18 points on turnovers com­pared to just eight for the Cavs. Cleve­land also went to the free throw line nine more times than Toronto did.

Since 2015, the Cava­liers have gone 29-4 in the post-sea­son against Eastern Con­fer­ence op­po­nents, in­clud­ing 16-1 at home.

Game 2 is Wed­nes­day in Cleve­land then the se­ries shifts to Toronto for Game 3 on Fri­day and Game 4 on Sun­day.

James was 13 of 23 from the field, and grabbed 10 re­bounds, and had the crowd chuck­ling when he missed a shot then jok­ingly grabbed a beer from the courtside wait­ress.

James is the “hub of ev­ery­thing,’’

Rap­tors coach Dwane Casey had said be­fore tipoff. “He’s a quar­ter­back, he’s a point guard, he’s a power for­ward, he’s a small for­ward, he’s a shoot­ing guard, he’s ev­ery­thing. So the way you kind of ma­noeu­vre and match around him is so im­por­tant. That’s what I re­mem­ber most about him last year, is try­ing to fig­ure that out.’’

Tris­tan Thomp­son of Bramp­ton, Ont., grabbed 14 re­bounds to go with 11 points for the Cavs.

Tues­day will be ad­just­ment day for Casey and his staff, as they look for bet­ter ways to con­tain James and the Cavs.

Quicken Loans Arena was awash in yel­low “De­fend the Land’’ T-shirts. For­mer Cleve­land Browns quar­ter­back Bernie Kosar and Browns cor­ner­back Joe Haden were among the fans. Old school hip hop artist Mon­tell Jor­dan sang his 1995 hit “This is How We Do It’’ at half­time. Photos of Justin Bieber and Nick­el­back flashed on the Jum­botron dur­ing Rap­tors free throws.

The hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment was noth­ing new for Toronto, af­ter their three games in front of an even louder, ear­split­ting crowd

in Mil­wau­kee.

The Cavs clob­bered the Rap­tors 115-85 in last year’s Game 1, but the Rap­tors had just one day to pre­pare af­ter their se­v­engame se­ries with Mi­ami, and Casey talked about how they’d been “am­bushed’’ in that game.

While their first quar­ter on Mon­day wasn’t as ugly, Toronto’s shots weren’t fall­ing, and the Cavs raced out to a 12-point lead. James set the pace early, and less than three min­utes in, Irv­ing tossed the ball off the back­board for James to fin­ish with a huge dunk. The Cava­liers led 30-18 to start the sec­ond.

Trail­ing by 18 points early in the sec­ond, the Rap­tors replied with a 19-3 run capped by a three-point play from Lowry that pulled Toronto to within two points. But then the Rap­tors went cold, go­ing 3-of-12 to end the half. The Cavs re­gained mo­men­tum, fin­ish­ing with a 21-9 run to take a 62-48 lead into the half­time break.

The Rap­tors pulled to within seven points in the third, but the Cavs replied once again, and a cut­ting layup by Thomp­son had Cleve­land back up by 25 with 38 sec­onds left in the third.

AP PHOTO

Cleve­land Cava­liers’ LeBron James, right, drives to the bas­ket against Toronto Rap­tors’ Pa­trick Pat­ter­son (54) in the first half in Game 1 of a sec­ond-round NBA bas­ket­ball play­off se­ries, Mon­day, in Cleve­land.

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