NBA

Toronto Raptors blow winnable Game 1 against less-than-stellar LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers

Jay Asser 2/05/2018
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Jonas Valanciunas falls to his knees in Game 1.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. At least when it comes to the Toronto Raptors’ plight against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it seems.

Despite having more favourable circumstances this time around, the Raptors disappointed in similar tragic fashion by falling to the Cavaliers 113-112 in overtime of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

To say Toronto blew a game they should have won only scratches the surface.

Cleveland not only never led at any point in regulation, but the Raptors also got the type of struggling performance out of LeBron James they may never see again.

After scoring 87 points through the first three quarters, Toronto’s offence cratered in the final period, especially down the stretch.

They missed their final 11 shots of regulation, while converting just 3-of-16 field goals inside five feet in the quarter. Even when they missed, they often got another possession by coming down with eight offensive boards in the fourth. But from those rebounds, they mustered just four points.

The Cavaliers actually did well to defend Raptors’ shots throughout the game, contesting 54 of their 91 field goal attempts. But Toronto still had makeable shots in traffic, including two put-back attempts in the final seconds of the fourth.

And that’s not even mentioning wide open misses like Serge Ibaka’s corner 3-pointer with just over a minute to go in regulation and Fred VanVleet’s clean look at the top of the arc before the aforementioned put-back shots.

The pain of those missed opportunities will hurt even more considering the Raptors wasted a bad James outing.

While he still finished with a triple-double of 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, James was off the mark on the night, hitting 12-of-30 shots overall, 1-of-8 on from deep and just 1-of-6 free throws.

“Shots weren’t going in for me,” said James. “It was probably one of my worst games of the season.”

Worst game of the season? That should strike fear in Toronto because as James showed in the first round, he can deliver in a big way when his back is against the wall.

On this night though, James’ teammates helped carry the load as Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson all doing their part.

“My teammates were unbelievable,” James said. “They stepped up when I wasn’t at my best.”

Neither were the Raptors, which is a trend Toronto have yet to break against Cleveland.

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NBA

Stephen Curry wastes no time in looking like himself as Golden State Warriors beat New Orleans Pelicans in Game 2

Jay Asser 2/05/2018
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Stephen Curry had 28 points in his return after an MCL sprain.

It didn’t take long for Stephen Curry to look like himself again as his return to the court now gives the Golden State Warriors an even wider margin for error.

In his first game back from an MCL sprain that had kept him sidelined since March 23, Curry seemed like he never left – aside from his role as a sixth man off the bench – by dropping an efficient 28 points in the Warriors’ 121-116 Game 2 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

And Golden State needed it too as the Pelicans bounced back with a much better effort than they had in the opener as Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo combined for 71 points.

Curry connected on 8-of-15 shots, including 5-of-10 from long range, to provide the shooting on a night the Warriors were otherwise lacklustre.

The rest of the team shot just 26.6 per cent on 3-pointers, with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combining to convert only 4-of-18.

It was obvious Golden State got their identity back with Curry’s return, and the numbers backed it up as the guard had far and away the best plus-minus at plus-26.

“It was an eternity it felt like, for sure,” Curry said of finally getting back on the floor. “When the lights come back on after the starting lineups you’re usually in the go kind of mind frame. I had to kind of pace myself and be patient with it.

“It seemed like it took forever but it was a good feeling to get back out on the floor and just let loose and have fun.”

Considering the Warriors may have all of three games with their full squad before meeting Houston in a clash of titans, Curry’s immediate return to form should make Golden State favourites once again.

“That guy, I don’t know if he knows what rust is,” Draymond Green told ESPN immediately after the game. “Every time he goes out, he comes back like that.

“So it’s kind of what you grow to expect from him.”

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NBA

Relive Terry Rozier's red-hot shooting night in Boston Celtics' Game 1 win over Philadelphia 76ers

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Terry Rozier hit seven 3-pointers in Game 1.

Terry Rozier did a more than passable Kyrie Irving impression for the injury-plagued Boston Celtics in their Game 1 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Boston guard exploded for 29 points and hit 7-of-9 from beyond the arc to give the the Celtics a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Relive Rozier’s hot-shooting night in the video below.

The 3-pointers were crucial for Boston, but Rozier’s best play on the night came when he dribbled through his legs past a Sixers defender before lobbing it up for Marcus Morris, who finished the highlight with a dunk.

Check it out for yourself.

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