The first quarter has proven to be a decisive factor in the outcome of playoff games for the Toronto Raptors.
After beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter of Game 4, the Raptors improved their playoff record to 9-2. The only two times the Raptors have lost a game after winning the opening frame, was against the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 and 6.
It’s as impactful when the Raptors don’t win the first quarter, with their record being 1-5. The single win coming against the Pacers in Game 5, after a miraculous 13-point fourth quarter comeback.
Against the Miami Heat and Cavaliers, losing the first quarter has resulted in five straight losses for the Raptors. While winning the first quarter has resulted in six straight wins, including Game 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Raptors are as unpredictable as they get, but getting off to a good start gives them their best chance of building and keeping momentum throughout the game. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan look like completely different players in the first quarters of wins and losses, because of the difficultly of finding a rhythm after a slow start.
In games the Raptors have won, the All-Star backcourt has combined to average 13.2 points on 41.4 per cent field goal shooting and 50 per cent shooting from 3-point distance in the first 12 minutes. In losses, they’ve averaged 9.1 points on 35.9 per cent shooting from the field and 14.3 per cent shooting from beyond the arc.
DeRozan has been great all year at being the first option on offence to start the game. Throughout the regular season, he led the team with 6.9 points on 46.4 per cent shooting and 44.2 per cent shooting from distance.
He’s also been a big reason why the Raptors have been able to start off with an edge in their two victories against the Cavaliers, after he scored 12 points to start off Game 3, and 6 points in Game 4 on his way to back-to-back 32-point performances.
With the Raptors holding the lead in their two previous games, it’s also brought out a dying Cavaliers team who’s luck seems to have run out from 3-point distance. After Game 4, the Cavaliers are now the only team in NBA history to attempt 40 or more 3-pointers in back-to-back games. An embarrassing record that comes with living and dying by the 3, after they only converted 32.9 per cent of their attempts.
The Raptors aren’t the best team at contesting the 3-point shot, allowing their opponents to shoot the second highest percentage in the league during the regular season at 37.3 per cent. But with the Cavaliers slumping from distance, the Raptors need to make sure to capitalize right from the start of the first quarter to limit any chance of them losing their grip on the game.
All stats for this article are from NBA.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97