King James reigns over collapse
Raps blow 20-point lead thanks to lackadaisical rebounding, LeBron’s 24 points in final period
Cavaliers 93 Raptors 90
Much of the talk today will be of LeBron James and his fourth-quarter brilliance yesterday . . . the 24 points he scored, the passes he made, the way he dominated the game as few in the NBA can. It will be nice to recall how great he was as he hit shots and drove the lane and dished to open teammates in the corner, all while carrying on rather one-sided conversations with the Raptor bench and a few courtside fans. But when it comes time to really dissect what transpired in the greatest home collapse in Toronto franchise history, it will be the nuances of the game, rather than James’ spectacular finish, that stick in the craw of coaches, players and management. Hidden, perhaps, in the wake of Cleveland’s 93-90 victory that stunned an Air Canada Centre crowd into silence, will be the way the Raptors blew a 20-point lead with lackadaisical efforts in two key components of any game. It will be the team’s utter inability to finish quarters with a sense of purpose that ticks them off. It will be the abject failure to rebound that makes them angry. And rightfully so. The 20 offensive rebounds the Cavs got led to 16 second-chance points and took the steam out of an otherwise good defensive performance by the Raptors. Having to pay so much attention to James left Toronto defenders out of position and the Cavs took advantage. “You have to pay so much attention to him and they’ve got Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Andy Varejao, they’re good rebounders,” said Chris Bosh. “You pay attention to a guy like that, you give help, and it’s tough to get back in position.”
Coach Sam Mitchell saw the loss coming not necessarily from what James did, but what the Raptors didn’t do.
“We did a lot more good things than bad things but you look at the end of the quarters and offensive rebounds; you can’t give a team 20 extra possessions,” said Mitchell.
Up 14 with two minutes left in the first half, the Raptors had a chance to bury a disinterested Cavaliers team. But two turnovers, a missed shot and three offensive rebounds for the Cavs allowed them to climb within 10 and gain momentum.
Up 17 with 30 seconds left in the third, when a basket and a stop could have really buried the Cavs, Toronto committed another turnover, gave up offensive rebounds on consecutive possessions and saw the lead carved to 13 heading into the fourth.
From then on out, it was all James and heartbreak for the Raptors.
“It was frustrating,” said Bosh. “It’s the small things we could have done. We gave them too many second chance shots and even if (James) does get hot, if they don’t have those second chance shots, it’s probably a different ball game.”
But the Raptors don’t pay attention to the little details like boxing out and they are now mired at .500 in a logjam among Eastern Conference wannabes.
“You have to stay sharp, you have to stay looking over your shoulder,” said Bosh. “If you get too relaxed, teams come right at you and make you pay.”
Like the Cavaliers . . . well, James, actually, did.
Not only did the sublimely talented forward score 24 of his 39 points in the fourth, he also had assists on three clutch three-pointers. He simply took the ball and shrugged off whatever Toronto tried to do to him defensively.
“I thought (Anthony Parker) was guarding him well,” said Mitchell. “When he drives to the basket, he commands so much attention and some of those guys hit some timely shots and then when we had a chance to respond and make some shots, we missed them.”