The Raptors lost Game 2 of their second round series against the Cavaliers on Thursday in blowout fashion. Behind 43 points and 14 assists by LeBron James, the Cavaliers took a commanding 2-0 lead with a 128-110 victory at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors now travel to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 in the hopes of extending the series and returning to Toronto for a potential Game 5 on Wednesday.
From the emergence of Kevin Love to the disappearance of Serge Ibaka, here are three factors that decided Game 2.
The value of Kevin Love
Whereas Game 1 was a good example of how playing Kevin Love at center can be problematic for the Cavaliers on defense, Game 2 was a good example of how it can make the Cavaliers unstoppable on offense.
After scoring seven points in Game 1, Love poured in 31 points on 11-for-21 shooting from the field and 2-for-6 shooting from 3-point range in Game 2. He did most of his scoring in the post, where he attacked the likes of DeMar DeRozan, CJ Miles and Pascal Siakam on switches, but it was the spacing he provided with his outside shooting that was the most noticeable. By establishing himself as a threat from distance - something he has struggled with for the most part in these playoffs - Love was able to pull Toronto's bigs away from the basket and open up driving lanes for LeBron James and others to attack, like this:
James carried the Cavaliers into the second round without much help from Love. Game 2 against the Raptors was the first time in these playoffs that he scored over 20 points, and it was only the second time in nine games that he made at least half of his total shot attempts from the field.
LeBron's jump shot
The Cavaliers had an 11-point lead when LeBron James made his second jump shot of the third quarter. He then went on to make eight of his next 12 shot attempts from outside the paint, which helped the Cavaliers extend their lead to 18 points in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
It didn't matter who the Raptors threw at him. James got it started against Kyle Lowry and then took Pascal Siakam, DeMar DeRozan and OG Anunoby to school with a series of Michael Jordan-esque fadeaways in the post. According to Kevin Love, it's something James told his teammates he'd do going into Game 2.
"When he went over his right shoulder and then went over his left shoulder, he said when he got the mismatch that he was going to do that," Love said after the game . "He actually called his shots this morning. That's just one of the examples that I could use of how locked in he was in the entire shootaround."
There isn't much defenses can do against James when his jump shot isn't falling, so it's basically game over when it is. Put it this way: James shot 7-for-14 in the paint and 5-for-16 outside of the paint in Game 1. In Game 2, he shot 9-for-12 in the paint and 10-for-16 outside of the paint.
Where is Serge Ibaka?
The Raptors signed Serge Ibaka to a $65 million contract in the offseason in the hope he would be a stabilizing force on both ends of the court. He gave the Raptors a tremendous boost in Game 1 of their first round series against the Wizards with 23 points and 12 rebounds, but he's scored a total of 41 points in the seven games since.
It doesn't help that Game 2 was Ibaka's worst showing yet in these playoffs, as he missed all five of his shots attempts and scored two points in his 12 minutes on the court. The Raptors could use his ability to space the floor as a power forward or center, protect the rim and guard multiple positions - especially when Love has it rolling in the way he did - but he didn't give them much on either end of the court in Games 1 and 2.
If the Raptors have any hope of extending the series, there's no doubt they'll need Ibaka to make more of an impact.