“The king, he move one space any damn direction he choose, because he’s the king. But he ain’t got no hustle.”
This, of course, is a quote from Season 1 of ‘The Wire,’ where D’Angelo spots his boys Bodie and Wallace playing checkers on a chess board and teaches them how to play chess.
On the NBA’s chess board, LeBron James is the King. One difference from D’Angelo’s explanation: he has hustle (you’ve seen how hard he works to flop, right?).
But, really, James moves wherever he wants, whenever he wants. The Pacers took the Cavs to Game 7, but did anyone really think the King would let himself be slain so early?
D’Angelo continues: “But the rest of these motherfuckers on the team, they got his back. And they run so deep, he really ain’t gotta do shit.”
This wasn’t true of the Cavaliers in the first round, or really all season. But the Raptors really can’t let “the rest of these motherfuckers” get going. Because Kevin Love and Kyle Korver can easily get hot. Korver shot 40 per cent from three against the Pacers, and it felt like a bad series for him.
Love tore ligaments in his right thumb, and never really looked like peak Love. Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson were terrible. J.R. Smith shot 31 per cent from deep, but defended Victor Oladipo with some effectiveness. Tristan Thompson played one good game after barely playing the first six.
All those “motherfuckers” have the King’s back. They just weren’t very good against Indiana. The Raptors can’t expect that to continue. Those guys all torched the Raptors in different way in their three regular-season matchups. Even Jose Calderon shot 7-9 from three in those games. In Game 2, when the Raptors scored 81 first-half points and lost, James had 17 assists – the most of any Raptors opponent this season.
His teammates had his back.
D’Angelo continues: “The pawns, man, they be out quick. They get capped early.”
But Bodie retorts: “Unless they some smart pawns.”
The last two seasons, the Raptors were capped quick. This time, the Raptors will need to be some smart pawns.
On offence, the answer is simple. Play like you have all season, and the points will come. Smith was good against Oladipo, which let James roam as more of a free safety. That’s the best possible defence for the Cavaliers, and they still bled points to Indiana – though not to the same extent as they did in the regular season.
But the Raptors have way more options. We know how much better Fred VanVleet is than Cory Joseph. Kyle Lowry is a supercharged Darren Collison. Jonas Valanciunas is much better than Myles Turner.
You get the point: the offence should be the issue.
The series will depend on who wins the battle between the Cavaliers offence and the Raptors defence. For the Raptors to contend, they need to make sure the role players on Cleveland stay cold after shooting a collective 32.4 per cent from deep against Indiana.
That means staying at home on three-point shooters, and letting OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka handle James as best they can in single coverage. Let James have his 35 points, but cut his 17 assists in half.
It sounds really dumb to try to let the GOAT beat you. But it’s the Raptors’ best chance.
Dwane Casey agrees: “He’s shown that he’s gonna score his points. What you can’t do is let … other guys have career nights.”
After all, “the King stays the King.” No matter what the Raptors defence tries to do.