Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 109-102 win over the host Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Sunday.
1. Raptors coach Dwane Casey said it best when he told reporters the Cavs have indeed flipped the switch. “They’re a totally different team,” Casey said.
2. Remember, this is Casey talking. His Raptors lost three of four against the Cavs in the regular season. The one game the Raptors won was when the starters rested. So that game was basically a scrimmage. The rest were a whole lot of LeBron James. Only James wasn’t as good in the regular-season meetings as he was in this playoff series.
3. In this playoff series, James had the opposition saying things such as, “If we had LeBron on our team too, we would’ve won.” Those were the words of Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, a fine talent in his own right. But he’s no LeBron, and not many people are/were/will ever be.
4. Or how about Kyrie Irving? He finally got it going in this series, and man, the Cavs couldn’t have been happier about it. Irving scored 11 straight points in the fourth quarter, and the Cavs needed every one of them.
5. As Cavs legend and radio analyst Jim Chones said, “Kyrie knows what time it is. It’s closing time.”
6. LeBron, by the way, finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He averaged 36 points in this series. He shot 60 percent from the floor. He is shooting 49 percent on 3-pointers in the playoffs! This is just an other-worldly performance from a guy who may be better than ever at the age of 32. And man, I never thought I’d type that about ANYONE.
7. Yes, James played 46 minutes — but who cares? He’s about to get another week off as the Celtics and Wizards struggle to solve their own excellent series.
8. Meanwhile, Irving put together his best game of the playoffs with 27 points, nine assists and four big steals. He only shot 36 percent vs. the Raptors, but averaged 8.3 assists for the series. So Irving made things happen and played like a champion in the closeout game.
9. Kyle Korver was also huge, scoring 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting off the bench. It seems as if the Cavs are getting someone in reserve to come up big every day now — and that’s a real credit to general manager David Griffin and the front office for building a veteran unit (Korver, Channing Frye, Deron Williams, and so on).
10. And yes, credit must also be given to coach Tyronn Lue, who is figuring out the right combinations, and as is usually the case, getting the most out of guys when you sometimes least expect it.
11. In 34 minutes, Kevin Love compiled just five points and five rebounds. He was a non-factor for much of this series and parts of the first-round series against Indiana. The Cavs are dominating, anyway. But eventually, they’re going to need Love to start playing like an All-Star again.
12. LeBron to reporters on the win: “Once again I’m part of a team that’s been able to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. It’s going to be my ninth time in 14 years. I’ll take those numbers.”
13. More Casey: “When LeBron is shooting the 3 ball the way he is, at the rate he’s shooting it, they’re difficult. It’s going to take a Herculean effort to beat them.”
14. DeRozan scored 22 to lead the Raptors, who again played without star point guard Kyle Lowry (ankle).
15. The Raptors shouldn’t panic. I know I wrote about the idea of maybe breaking them up, but teams shouldn’t be terribly disappointed just because they can’t get past LeBron. Sometimes, it’s best to stay the course. LeBron won’t be around forever. Perhaps the Raptors will want to stay together, add some pieces, then sit back and patiently wait for Cleveland’s run to end.
16. I’ll have plenty more as the Cavs await their next opponent — both on the Cavs and the entire NBA. Talk to you soon.