CLEVELAND — For the third time in as many postseasons Shaq Mason Jersey , the Cleveland Cavaliers enter Game 3 against the Toronto Raptors leading the series 2-0.
But this is the first time the third game was on Cleveland’s home floor. It’s an uh-oh moment for the Raptors, who were swept out of the Eastern Conference semis by the Cavs last season and are in danger of it happening again.
The Cavs would very much like for history to repeat itself.
“It’s one game at a time, and that’s the only way we should look at it,” said LeBron James, who in Game 2 became the first player in NBA history to score at least 40 points (43) with 14 assists in a playoff game.
“We will not put our guards down,” James said. “I won’t, so that’s going to trickle down to everybody else. Understanding that the series is never won until it’s over. You’ve got to win four games to get out of a series and it starts with the next game, so I will be as sharp as I was tonight.”
The Raptors finished the regular season atop the East and were the only team in the NBA ranked in the top five in offense and defense. But the Cavs are three-time defending conference champs. They are the ones playing with poise so far in this series.
Toronto has been outscored 34-8 in points off turnovers (Cleveland set a franchise record with just three turnovers in a 128-110 win in Game 2), and by 12 points in the fourth quarter. The Cavs opened the third quarter on an 18-5 spurt.
“We’re 0-2, we understand that,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s hope Doug Flutie Jersey , it’s pride, it’s toughness. The toughness part is the part I didn’t think we played with last night. I thought we did in Game 1. We did in parts of last night. But we didn’t do it long enough. So it’s about grit, toughness.
“If you want to use the word hope … If we’re hoping we win, we shouldn’t be in the NBA,” Casey continued. “That’s not a good word to use if you’re a professional player.”
There’s more bad news coming for the Raptors. They didn’t win a playoff game in Cleveland in either of the previous two years, and have lost eight straight to the Cavs in the postseason overall dating to the 2016 conference finals.
Counting the regular season, the Raptors have dropped four straight against Cleveland, including two at Quicken Loans Arena.
Kevin Love has struggled for much of the postseason, but averaged 20.5 points and shot 66.7 percent from 3-point range in those two regular-season wins over Toronto. Naturally, he had his finest game of the 2018 playoffs in Game 2 with 31 points and 11 rebounds.
The Raptors continually switched smaller players onto Love in Game 2 and he dominated them. In Game 1 (Love was 3 of 13), Toronto used the 7-foot bruiser Jonas Valanciunas on Love and gave him fits.
“It felt nice to see those mismatches or even see the big out on the perimeter on me — whether it was Valanciunas or Siakam or Poeltl or whoever it was — I just kind of was able to get some easy buckets William Hayes Jersey ,” Love said. “So that got me going early and Bron was looking for me and those guys helped me through it.”
So, in summation, it’s not looking good for the Raptors.
“Ain’t nothing changed,” Raptors reserve guard Fred VanVleet said. “There’s a reason why we are who we are. There’s a reason why we’re in the position we’re in. We get paid to do this. Obviously, it hasn’t been our best showing, down 0-2. But it’s the first to four. All we can worry about is going to Cleveland trying to get one.”
Having clinched a playoff berth, Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans are looking ahead.
They are one of five teams in the mix for the No. 4 seed in the wild West, and a win against the Spurs in their regular season finale would give the Pelicans home-court advantage.
”We know we’re not done,” Davis said after scoring 28 points in a 113-100 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. ”It wasn’t just our goal to get here, but to make some noise.”
Nikola Mirotic had 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Pelicans’ fourth straight victory. They’ll be making just their second playoff appearance in seven years, having earned it without big man DeMarcus Cousins Tom Rathman Jersey , who sustained a season-ending Achilles injury on Jan. 28.
The Pelicans proceeded to lose four of five before winning 10 in a row.
”When he went down, everybody on the team just picked it up,” Davis said.
Sindarius Thornwell scored 20 points off the bench, DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds and Montrezl Harrell added 15 points for the Clippers, who have lost three in a row while being eliminated from playoff contention.
The Pelicans shot 51 percent from the field and 56 percent from 3-point range in the first half. The Clippers fought back from an 11-point deficit to lead 47-45 before New Orleans closed on a 13-2 run to lead 59-49 at the break.
The Pelicans were just getting rolling.
Their scoring binge continued into the third, and when it was over – a 33-6 spurt over both halves – they led 79-53. Davis had nine points, Mirotic eight and E’Twaun Moore seven.
”Anthony has taken this team and put it on his back,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. ”If we could have had a better record his name would definitely be in the MVP conversation.”
Davis stirred the crowd with an off the glass pass from Rajon Rondo that resulted in a one-handed alley-oop dunk in the run.
”That was exciting,” teammate Jrue Holiday said. ”I’d rather him do that in the playoffs than now.”
Thornwell got a roar for a jam over DeAndre Liggins in the game’s final minutes.
Pelicans: They improved to 26-25 vs the West. … They won the season series 3-1. … New Orleans hasn’t made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2007-08.
Clippers: C Boban Marjanovic scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth. … Starting guards Austin Rivers (right elbow soreness) and Lou Williams (sprained right ankle) sat out, but are likely to return for Wednesday’s season finale.
THE BEARDLESS ONE
Since shaving his beard last week, Mirotic has played like a new man. He came in averaging 28 points and shooting 56 percent from the field Demetri Goodson Jersey , compared to 14.6 points and 28 percent shooting with the beard he’d had since 2013. ”You look like you’re 18 now, so you’re getting some calls,” Gentry told Mirotic.
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
Rookie C.J. Williams was signed to a multi-year contract after being a two-way player this season. The 28-year-old guard has appeared in 37 games for the Clippers – he started Monday – and 16 games for their NBA G League affiliate in Ontario. The North Carolina State graduate played in France, Greece and Italy and the G League before signing with the Clippers last fall. ”I actually cried for about an hour,” said Williams, who surprised his visiting parents with the news. ”You think of all the things you’ve done to get to this point.” Coach Doc Rivers said Williams is ”a great, great person to have in your locker room. He came in and proved he’s an NBA player.”
HE SAID IT
”The MVP is (James) Harden. I’m going to announce it tonight.” – Rivers.
Pelicans: They host San Antonio to end the regular season on Wednesday.
Clippers: They host the Lakers on Wednesday in both teams’ season finale.
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