Raptors Cage

How LeBron picked the Raptors defense apart in Game 2

LeBron James‘ 43 points and 14 assists in game 2 last night proves the more things change, the more things stay the same when it comes to the King against the Raptors. The Toronto Raptors 128-110 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, considering the expectations and hype, is one of the most painful losses in franchise history. This team was supposed to be able to challenge the Cavaliers, if not flat out beat them. Two games into the series and everyone’s favourite idiot Skip Bayless looks like a prophet when he said the Raptors would get swept. It’s like we’re watching a bad remake of last year’s series.

To choke away game one and get blown out in game two were probably the worst outcomes the Raptors could’ve imagined. The game was the result of bad individual performances, but mostly, LeBron James. The Raps came into the series with a psychological disadvantage and it’s obviously getting worse. Just watching on TV you could see the team get demoralized and lose hope after every basket by James. The Raptors looked more focused on complaining to the referees and looking around with their hands up than playing defense. The Cavaliers are averaging 120.5 points in these first two games. Let that sink in.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the second straight collapse we just witnessed. The “LeBron is too good” talking point has some truth to it but with performances like game two the Raptors wouldn’t beat anyone left in the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at how James systematically picked apart Raptors defense.

Passes off screens

  • Kyle Lowry goes under the Kevin Love screen leaving Kyle Korver open for a quick catch and shoot 3 and easy assist for James
  • Bad communication. Lowry either needs to go over the screen or Jonas Valanciunas has to show himself until Lowry arrives or make the switch

  • Korver hits Valanciunas with an off-ball screen, freeing Kevin Love for an alley and another assist
  • The Cavaliers have four shooters on the court and the Raptors have a lineup out to match with OG Anunoby at PF
  • There’s no rim protection outside of Valanciunas and Kevin Love is a matchup nightmare for him because of his outside shooting and mobility

  • JR Smith sets a quick off-ball screen for Love; he steps behind it and sinks a three
  • When Jakob Poeltl is screened there’s no switch and like Valanciunas he’s too slow to keep up with Love
  • James isn’t being pressured enough to effect his passing accuracy or timing

Eyes on LeBron

  • When James drives the entire Raptors defense freezes and they forget about his teammates
  • Rodney Hood, Jeff Green, and Kyle Korver were all open on this play all James has to do is find them

  • JR Smith sets a screen for James then Anunoby and CJ Miles forget about him
  • LeBron takes both defenders with him and passes back to Smith for a wide open 3
  • This isn’t even a double team there’s no ball pressure

Mismatches

  • James gets a switch on Lowry then rises above him and sinks a fadeaway jumper
  • Poeltl is roaming in the area but doesn’t double
  • When LeBron gets himself in a mismatch situation the Raptors don’t try to do anything, they’re allowing him to abuse the mismatches

  • James has Lowry guarding him again and does the exact same thing
  • Four Raptors are watching

1 on 1

  • The Cavaliers have four shooters on the court and the paint is empty
  • OG Anunoby is on an island with James and honestly has no chance defending him in a situation like this

  • Again the Cavaliers have four shooters on the court and the paint is empty
  • Pascal Siakam is put in the same situation as Anunoby, same result
  • The Raptors simply don’t have anyone who can defend James when the Cavaliers do this
  • You can see Fred Vanvleet hesitate to help because JR Smith is wide open at the three point line

Many have said that the best way to beat LeBron is to let him do his thing and shut down everyone else. The Raptors aren’t doing either. They’re letting him literally do anything he wants. They don’t double to take the ball out of his hands and when he drives the ball they get caught over helping or looking then allow passes to open shooters. There doesn’t look like there’s a set plan to deal with him. Some teams have tried doubling to get the ball out of his hands and others have packed the paint and let him shoot. The Raptors will have to do something different in game three or this will be a quick series.

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