Random dribbles after the Cavaliers’ 115-94 throttling of the host Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday.
1. This has truly been quite the ride. The Cavs won a championship last season. They went through a strange end to this regular season. They looked out of sorts in the first round against Indiana — but swept the Pacers anyway.
2. Now, they look better than at any time this season, turning away a talented Toronto team and taking a 3-0 lead in the series. Game 4 is Sunday, and I suspect the Cavs will have wrapped this up before the middle of next week (if not Sunday).
3. And how about LeBron James? My goodness. He has scored 35 points in two of the three games, including Friday. He scored 39 in the other. He is averaging 36.3 points for the series — on 60 percent shooting! At 32, LeBron is just as great as ever. Amazing.
4. We hear and read a lot about LeBron’s forays into Hollywood, his TV shows, movies and commercials. And that’s all cool. But he also spends countless hours in the gym, finding ways to improve. Some stars care more about the lifestyle than the basketball. Not LeBron.
5. Take his improved perimeter shot as an example. James really struggled last season when the idea was making 3-pointers. Clearly, he worked on it all offseason and he’s big threat from there again.
6. Of course, this win was about more than just LeBron. Most wins are. Kyle Korver was huge off the bench, his 14 points (5-of-7 shooting) a career playoff high with the Cavs.
7. Kevin Love also went for 16 points and 13 rebounds in his best game of the series. Love went 6-of-9 from the floor.
8. Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving (16 points, 7-of-21 shooting) just can’t seem to get it going. He sometimes looks exhausted. It’s hardly a major issue, and everyone expects Irving to come around and be the Irving he can be. Besides that, the Cavs are 7-0 in the playoffs and have won 10 straight postseason games overall.
9. The Cavs held just a two-point lead (79-77) entering the fourth quarter … then the Raptors missed 10 of their first 11 shots to start the fourth. Yes, the Cavs’ defense had something to do with that. And their improvements on that end are coming at a darn good time.
10. Of course, I haven’t seen a single person write about that yet. Well, other than me, just now.
11. LeBron to reporters on the win: “We knew we were coming to a hostile environment, we knew they were going to give us everything they had, no matter who was in the lineup. We just had to weather the storm.”
12. DeMar DeRozan was magnificent for the Raptors, scoring 37 and keeping them in the game. I think the Raptors need to make another deal this offseason. Keep DeRozan, but everyone else should be available. That includes star point guard Kyle Lowry, who missed the game with an ankle injury. Lowry would bring the most in return.
13. By the way, the Raptors have lost three in a row for the first time since the All-Star break in February.
14. As for the Cavs, all they need is to keep this going, and hope Kyrie returns to All-Star form soon. Winning Sunday and putting this thing to rest would really help. Clearly, a week of between series did the Cavs plenty of good.
15. Finally, the Cavs have outscored Toronto 135-51 on 3-pointers in this series. Another huge key. “That’s what we do,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “We shoot threes. We play fast. We want to push the tempo and we have great 3-point shooters. That’s the makeup of our team. That’s how we want to play. That’s just how we’re built. As far as their team, I don’t know.”
LeBron James, 35 pts on just 16 attempts. "We don't focus on the past, we just focus on the present, we focus on today," he tells ESPN.
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) May 6, 2017