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The grind of the regular season often results in the games blending into one, a collection of contests that save for a moment or two, will be lost to memory and dwarfed by the postseason.
Which is why LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, despite holding a commanding 2-0 lead over the Toronto Raptors in an Eastern Conference semifinal series after winning the first two on the road, is looking at nothing but Game 3, which will be played tonight at 8:30 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“There’s no fast tracking the process where you say, ‘OK, let’s try to end this thing so we can get some rest,'” he said. “You do that and you get a lot of rest. You do that and you can be home and end up losing, 4-2.”
All things point toward Cleveland, though. Since James, who lead the NBA in scoring (34.4) in the playoffs, has put up a stat line of 20-5-5 in all nine postseason games this season — a streak that is at 16, dating back to the playoffs a year ago — came back to Cleveland, the Cavaliers have won the first two games of a series nine times, including this one.
On only two occasions has Cleveland not won those respective eight series in a sweep, the Eastern Conference finals in 2016, when Toronto took Games 3 and 4 at home only to fall in six games, and in the conference finals a year ago, when Boston claimed Game 3 before bowing in five.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey wants his players to play with more grit. Toronto won a franchise-record 59 games during the regular season, earning homecourt advantage, which disappeared after Cleveland’s 113-112 overtime victory in Game 1.
“We’re 0-2, we understand that,” he said. “It’s hope, it’s pride, it’s toughness.
“If you want to use the word hope — if we’re hoping we win, we shouldn’t be in the NBA.”
C.J. Miles of the Raptors, while realizing to beat James and the Cavaliers four times in five games in order to advance is a tall task, says the Raptors won’t back down.
“It’s 0-2 period,” the one-time Cavalier (2012 and 2013) said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not me disrespecting the guy. You don’t want to be down 0-2 to anybody. It’s unfortunate; especially looking at the fact we had 59 wins and were one of the best home teams in the league. You don’t see that coming from us on our home floor, which is why it’s disappointing, especially the second game, not being able to do what we wanted to do.
“We are where we are now.”
Meanwhile, history remains on Cleveland’s side. The Cavaliers have taken a 2-0 lead in playoff series 15 times all time — and have won all 15.
“The main thing is to win each game… and to win the next game,” James said. “We still got some work to do.”
Without looking ahead.
“You don’t cheat the game gods,” James said. “I’ve never been a part of that.”