The Cavaliers dominated at The Q, but can their game make it through customs?
Toronto put up little fight in the Cavs’ 116-78 win, as both teams continue to protect their houses
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue slowly trudged into the postgame press conference. He looked annoyed. The expression was odd given that his team had just beat the Toronto Raptors, 116-78, in criminal fashion, worthy of 25 years to life. Before the first reporter could ask a question, Lue spoke his mind.
“Before you ask,” he said, “I know Kevin Love didn’t play in the fourth quarter. Next question.”
The room erupted in laughter at the obvious nod to Love not playing in the final frame of Games 3 and 4 due to inefficiency and injury. Like every other matchup between the Cavs and Raptors this season, the home team took care of business. Only this time the game was as competitive as when Martin “Raw Dog” Payne fought Tommy “Hitman” Hearns for the charity boxing championship on the 1990s TV show Martin.
By the end of the night, the Raptors would look like Martin, too.
Love, of course, is the big story. He finally bounced back from a terrible performance north of the border, going 8-for-10 from the field for 25 points. Following the game, LeBron James said the team fed off Love’s aggressiveness on both ends, a savvy move to give credit to a struggling teammate. There isn’t much more to take away from Game 5. Toronto’s offense never got off the plane, missing 14 free throws and 14 of its 17 3-pointers. Cleveland’s offense and defense looked like new money, with James and Kyrie Irving adding 23 points a piece.
What’s important about Game 5 is how it translates into Game 6. Like the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference, the Cavs have a chance to punch a NBA Finals ticket before the Memorial Day holiday weekend gets in full swing. Another week of rest isn’t a bad incentive, either. LeBron James-led teams are 8-1 in series when his squads are up 3-2. The only loss came a decade ago when his teammates were Flip Murray, Eric Snow, Drew Gooden and Donyell Marshall.
But can Cleveland’s game make it through customs?
The Raptors won’t get bombed (and depleted) out by 40 points at home, word to the great Silky Johnson of “The Player Haters Ball.” The crowd will be too live. Drake — if he’s there (and why wouldn’t he be?) — will be doing Drake things on the sideline, further cementing his status as the new Spike Lee. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan play better at the Air Canada Centre. Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas should see more playing time in what is a do-or-die game for Toronto, too.
But do-or-die is exactly how the Cavs have to approach Game 6, as the more desperate team. James’ traditionally a different beast in Game 7s, but Game 7 isn’t something you seek if it’s possible to avoid. Weird things happen in Game 7s, meaning the Cavs have to treat Friday night in “The 6ix” as a must-win.
Prior to Game 5, James mentioned being in a state of calmness. The Raptors had just dominated the Cavs back in Toronto and a seemingly mundane series suddenly had people literally cooking their phones over lost bets.
The world around him was losing its mind. But James kept his mind and the Cavs moved within a game of its leader’s sixth consecutive Finals appearance. Cleveland played with an intensity not seen since, well, the last home game in Cleveland.
Great teams protect home court. Title contenders win on the road. Champions do both.