Cavaliers leave scar with 38-point win, total dominance
POSTED: May 26, 2016 1:48 AM ET
UPDATED: May 26, 2016 2:18 AM ET
Raptors vs. Cavaliers
LeBron James tallies 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds in the Cavs' 116-78 rout.
CLEVELAND — The Toronto Raptors don't want to come back to Cleveland.
Well, OK, the Raptors do want to come back to Cleveland. They're rather desperate to get back to The 'Land, in fact, because the alternative means that hope for them is dead, that hoops goes fishin' and summer starts early again in Canada.
The Raptors cannot possibly want to come back to Cleveland after losing Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals by 38 points Wednesday, 116-78. Even if it's their only way possible -- which is to say improbable, bordering on impossible -- to survive and advance to The Finals.
Love Hits 25
Kevin Love scores 25 points on 8-10 shooting with three triples, two boards, two dimes and two blocks to help Cleveland top Toronto in game 5.
Four times the Toronto Raptors have ventured into Quicken Loans Arena since the start of the 2015-16 NBA season. Four times they have been battered, bloodied and beaten. Their average deficit has been 27.5 points, with none of the four decided by fewer than 19.
A fifth -- which only can happen if Toronto manages to take Game 6 at home Friday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) -- would seem as ill-advised as Michael Spinks stepping back into the ring with Mike Tyson, as Angola seeking a rematch against the original Dream Team or as you sprinting back into the chair to extend a streak for consecutive root canals. Equal parts embarrassing, ominous and even masochistic.
Tied at 2-2 in the series and none too happy about it, the Cavaliers laid out the Raptors with one of those punches that hurt your whole family. This was nightmare stuff, a game whose tone and tilt were evident in the first five minutes, though tradition and commercial revenue required the other 43 to be played.
The Cavs didn't just plant a seed with the Raptors about what might await them back at The Q in a Game 7 -- they left a scar. Something for them to finger and flinch over, even before Friday's tip.
Certainly, anything can happen in a Game 7...
Except for that. Nah, not that.
Even Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue got into the bully ball business, gloating as he ascended the podium about the turnaround in forward Kevin Love's play. Love had shrunk in the moments of Game 3 and 4, scoring a combined 13 points on 5-of-23 shooting in the defeats and spending the final quarter both nights on the Cleveland bench. Lue called on backup Channing Frye both times and never bothered to send Love back in.
So there was Lue before a question even was asked, cackling as he said, "Before we get started, I know Kevin didn't play in the fourth quarter, so you don't have to ask it. Next question."
Nightly Notable: LeBron James
LeBron James scores 23 points on 10-17 shooting with eight dimes, six boards, two steals and a block to power Cleveland past Toronto in game 5.
This time, Love could spectate happily from the sideline, same as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Cleveland's Big Three each exited at or before the quarter break, their work done: a combined 71 points on 27-of-44 shooting, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, six steals, four blocks. Love benefited from being the offense's early focal point, scored 25 points and missed only two of his 10 shots, all in less than 24 minutes.
The entire Toronto team, working five at a time, didn't reach 71 points until less than six minutes remained. The final margin, for the Cavaliers, ranks as the fattest in franchise playoff history -- seven points greater than the one they hung on the Raptors (31) in Game 1, same court, just eight days earlier.
The night's box score told the tale, both forward in all its lopsided numbers and backwards, forensically, like blood-splatter evidence recreating the crime. Nineteen turnovers for Toronto. Outrebounded by 21. Seventeen fewer field goals than the Cavs. Outscored by 21 on 3-pointers alone. A gap that, at its max, reached 43 points.
"They were locked in from start to finish," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "The fore that they play with is different here, and we didn't meet it. I don't know what else to say."
His best player, point guard Kyle Lowry, was similarly flummoxed when asked his thoughts on the difference in the two teams' play, home vs. road. Said Lowry: "I don't know."
But he and backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan were back to their pendulum ways. In the first two games they teamed up for 29 points on 40 percent shooting. In the next two, the Raptors' tandem averaged 59.5 points while shooting 52 percent. This time? Back to the earlier numbers, scoring 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting.
Oddly, the Raptors had been a solid road team this season, their 24-17 mark tying Cleveland and the L.A. Clippers for third-best in the league (Golden State was 34-7, San Antonio 27-14). They won the first games in Indianapolis and Miami in the previous rounds.
And yet they're 2-7 now in the postseason, with one more mandatory to make it into June. Flesh might be willing but the spirit figures to be awfully weak.
GameTime: Raptors-Cavaliers Game 5 Analysis
The GameTime crew takes a look at how Cleveland dominated Toronto in a Game 5 victory.
What makes them think they can eventually do the same thing at The Q and get a different result? "We're going home," DeRozan said. "We play great at home. We've got to take it one game at a time. We'll figure that one once we get past Friday."
The Cavaliers know they have to be better on the road, the challenges posed by Toronto -- at least up there -- offering a hint of what they could face in The Finals from either Golden State or OKC. Panic had not set in, though, not within their ranks, knowing how they had played against Detroit and Atlanta and how they had an extra home game in reserve.
"I've been a part of some really adverse situations," James said, "and I just didn't believe that this was one of them. So it's just been very calm about the whole situation, understanding that our guys knew what we did and what we didn't accomplish in Toronto."
Cleveland's response Wednesday to its lost weekend in Canada was to more or less obliterate it from their memory banks, along with as many onlookers' as they could. As far as the Cavaliers are concerned, what happens in Toronto stays in Toronto.
Including, soon enough, the Raptors.
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