Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 125-103 hammer job of a win over the visiting Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal Wednesday.
1. Don’t analyze. Just appreciate. Right now, the Cavs are doing all the things they said they needed to do to finish this series quickly.
2. A lot of times we look for things to talk about — how the Cavs’ bench fared, how many points J.R. Smith scored, if Tyronn Lue has the toughest coaching job in the NBA. Blah, blah and double blah.
3. Sometimes, all it takes is the eye test, and if you’re a supporter of the Cavs, a nod and a smile. This team is dominating in all facets. LeBron James, as usual, is looking like a super duper star. The Raptors have no answers. It looks like it should be a sweep.
4. But again, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Today, the Cavs lead the series, 2-0. I don’t see any way in this basketball universe the Raptors can win four before the Cavs win two. The Raptors don’t compare on paper or on the court. They are suddenly wearing the dazed look of a team that now believes all this.
5. Anyway, LeBron James scored 35 on Monday and said he needed to be better Wednesday. I laughed at him. He was indeed better. That’s because he’s LeBron James and we’re not.
6. Wednesday, James erupted for 39 points — on 14 shots! I hate exclamation points. But I know when they’re needed. This is one of those situations!
7. Let’s say it out loud in unison: LeBron James. 39 points. On 14 shots. Let’s see the other MVP candidates do that. Yeah, I know. It’s a regular-season award. And guess what? That’s good news for everyone else, because LeBron tends to own the playoffs.
8. As you probably know, James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list. James tied Abdul-Jabbar when he buried a 3-pointer with 8:52 left in the third quarter. LeBron passed Kareem 10 seconds later with another three. LeBron now has 5,776 points and trails Michael Jordan by 211.
9. LeBron on the game: “It wasn’t always perfect, but for 48 minutes, we executed the game plan as well as we could.”
10. And all of Cavs Nation gave a hearty amen.
11. LeBron on passing Kareem: “I’m a guy who just tries to play the game the right way. … But I can put the ball in the hole a little bit.”
12. Kyrie Irving finished with 22 points and 11 assists. He’s still struggling shooting the ball (6-of-19), but he’s averaging 10.5 assists in this series. That’s winning basketball, and give him credit for staying engaged when the shots aren’t dropping.
13. Kevin Love had a very average night with nine points and seven rebounds. That’s not necessarily a big deal, as Love got plenty of rest thanks to the blowout nature of this game. Also, Channing Frye caught fire, as he can occasionally do, filling in for Love off the bench and scoring 18 on 6-of-9 shooting.
14. And as I mentioned on Twitter, Smith has been outstanding defensively in this series. Smith isn’t the only reason Raptors star guard DeMar DeRozan was shut down to the tune of 2-of-11 shooting and five measly points — but Smith is undoubtedly a big reason. Granted, the Cavs are blitzing DeRozan with double teams, but it is Smith’s responsibility to hold his ground and get things started.
15. Basically, remember all that talk about the Cavaliers and the flipping of the switch? Well, consider it flipped. Now all the Cavs need to do is make sure it stays locked on the “on” position.
16. If you remember, they dominated the Raptors in the first two games of the East finals last season, before the Raptors turned a corner and won two at home. The Cavs need to get (at least) one in Toronto and put this team to bed. It’s over. It’s just a matter of when.
17. Worse for the Raptors, point guard Kyle Lowry (20 points) appears to have at least a mildly sprained ankle. One league source said he would be “fairly surprised” if Lowry played in Game 3. But it’s a must-win for the Raptors, so don’t be shocked if Lowry rubs some dirt on it and plays. He is a winner in his own right.
18. Final dribble: You really have to like what Iman Shumpert has given the Cavs since Tyronn Lue benched him for the first game of the playoffs. Shump went for 14 quiet points on an icy 6-of-8 shooting Wednesday. He didn’t have a great regular season, but that’s all behind him now. He is playing like someone who truly understands the postseason is what really matters.