The Toronto Raptors start to their series against the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t exactly go the way that they wanted it to. The Raptors lost 116-105 in Game 1 at the Q, but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate. Cleveland led by 20 points with three minutes left before pulling their starters. Their performance combined with what looked to be a fresh and re-focused Cleveland team led some to pronounce the series over after just one game. We should probably pump the breaks on that just a bit.
“They addressed the media, Kyle, DeMar, Coach Casey as well, all of them had nothing but really nothing but confidence to reflect still in this series,” said NBA TV sideline reporter Kristen Ledlow on CBS Sports Radio’s DA show with Damon Amendolara. “They said it was one game, that it’s a seven game series, that these two teams are very similar. They’re very familiar with each other as well. One of the things that Coach Casey pointed out is that this is the second and third seed in the Eastern Conference with identical records. Of course, the Cavaliers had the tiebreaker with that 3-1 series lead in the regular season, but this is not a team that is down and out. This is not a team that just because they got–dominated–for lack of a better word in that Game 1 that they think that they’re done and they’re packing their bags and they’re heading home to Canada. By no means was that what was reflected in practice the morning after. A lot of times, when I walk into practice that morning after I can tell well alright it’s a series wrap, you can forget it, there’s no way that these guys think that they have a shot against this team. That was not the case with Toronto yesterday.
On the other side, one of the stories that has followed the Cavaliers all season is the number of minutes that LeBron James is playing. James led all NBA players in minutes per game this season averaging 37.8 a night and, so far, leads all players in the postseason averaging an insane 43.2 minutes per outing. How is that possible for a guy in his 14th NBA season? Shouldn’t the Cavs be more judicious about the number of minutes their superstar plays?
“It’s interesting because on of the things that coach Ty Lue told me just minutes prior to the game was that he wasn’t concerned as much about the minutes that LeBron is playing in the actual games because he played the most minutes per game in the NBA in the regular season this year and thus far the most in the NBA in the postseason as well,” said Ledlow. “So everybody talks about like, this is a 32-year-old man, trying to go out there and dominate and win another title how can he continue putting up minutes like this? And one of the things that Ty Lue said was it was more about the days in between than the actual minutes on the night of. So, those things are huge for them when you’ve got a 32-year-old superstar leading your franchise, to have more than a week off in between series when everybody else is going to six or to seven before the next series can start, that’s been huge for him.
One of the things that LeBron told me as well is that he likes to stay in that playoff mode, but that he can’t when he has that many days off. Monday, after the game, he told us that they’d be even better on Wednesday. I know it gives a lot of those guys a chance to actually rest and recuperate. A couple of the guys that have those nagging injuries are able to get re-evaluated, they’re able to get treatment on their bodies. I know that they try and keep it a playoff type atmosphere in their practices throughout those eight days before the next series starts. But, I think that those days are hugely valuable to a team that’s looking to defend a title.”