The Air Canada Centre was deafeningly silent in the third quarter of Game 2 with the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers were manhandling the home team, the Toronto Raptors. At the center of the melee was LeBron James, who was (again) orchestrating the devastation. Except for a smattering of “oohs-and-ahhs,” there was virtually nothing for the crowd to react to.
Unfortunately for the Raptors, the awe that their fans expressed on Thursday night was reserved mostly for the player dubbed as “The Chosen One.” Similar to the emotions evoked within an art enthusiast by a soulful painting, James’ masterful performance demanded the same type of response as he delivered yet another masterpiece.
At the end of the Cavs forward’s spectacular exhibition, Cleveland defeated the Raptors 128-110 to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals heading back home. The loss was demoralizing for a Raptors team that has been fighting off the impression that they are not good enough to win the East as long as James resides in the conference. They already lost Game 1 with the 4-time MVP not shooting the ball well.
On this night, everything was clicking for LeBron. who also had ample help from fellow All-Star Kevin Love. Love had 31 points and 11 rebounds to complement James’ 43 points and 14 assists. That particular stat line is pretty significant, as the Elias Sports Bureau says that “James delivered the first 40-point, 14-assist game in NBA playoff history”
LeBron James has led the @cavs in points and assists in 10 straight playoff games.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2018
Number 23 was taking and making ridiculous, contested-fadeaway jumpers all night long with some of them dropping through the net from deep. It was the type of breathtaking performance that elicited more than a few compliments from fellow players on social media.
Speaking of social media, ESPN broadcaster Mark Jones was covering the game when he invented a new term for James’ dominance of the Raptors. As the broadcast was heading to a commercial after the third quarter, Jones inadvertently trolled Toronto by renaming the Cavs-Raptors game as “LeBronto,” a pseudo word that has since become a viral term on Twitter. Such was James’ supremacy over the Raptors that a new name was required to define what everyone was witnessing.
How good was he?
According to ESPN Stats & Info, “LeBron James made 7 fadeaway jumpers in Game 2. That is tied for the most by any player in a playoff game since the data became available in 2001-02. Klay Thompson had 7 in 2015 per NBA Advanced Stats.”
LeBron James (43 PTS, 14 AST, 8 REB) becomes the 1st player in NBA History with at least 40 PTS and 14 AST in an #NBAPlayoffs game as he leads @cavs to the victory in Game 2! #WhateverItTakes pic.twitter.com/XSmxVq4VRm
— NBA (@NBA) May 4, 2018
Again, how good was he?
LeBron practically equaled the production of three of Toronto’s best players: DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka.
To put things in perspective:
DeRozan, Ibaka, and Lowry COMBINED:
— With a K 🇧🇧🇿🇼 (@IAMKRIS24) May 4, 2018
James has been the Raptors Killer since he came into the league, a fact that I outlined in detail in a previous piece that summarized some cold, hard facts. This current playoff series only ratifies the arguments mentioned there, even adding to the list.
Here are a few noteworthy numbers:
4. James is averaging 30.8 points per game against the Raptors in the playoffs per Stat Muse
His scoring average is quite impressive, as it has increased over these last two games with him scoring 26 and 43 points in Games 1 and 2, respectively. That’s 34.5 points per game.
Overall, James’ complete stat line in their 12 playoff match-ups is off-the-charts:
3. 30.8 points / 8.6 rebounds / 7.3 assists / 1.6 steals / 1.0 blocks / 58.4% FGs / 37.3% 3-point FGs / 68.8% FTs
The only thing normal or below average from these statistics is his free throw shooting percentage, but that’s been a common theme of late. Otherwise, James is not only close to averaging a triple-double versus Toronto, he’s shooting the rock at nearly 60 percent from the field! That’s an unheard of statistic, especially since we’re talking about a non-center.
2. According to TheScore, the Raptors have won just one of their last 29 road games versus James’ teams
— theScore (@theScore) May 3, 2018
That’s a horrendous statistic for the Raptors, who are likely dealing with psychological barriers to defeating LeBron in a playoffs series by now. The series shifts to Cleveland as Game 3 resumes the non-rivalry that James and his teams have with the Raptors.
1. James has the most playoff triple-doubles (2) versus the Raptors after his Game 1 performance
With 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists in the first game of the series, James broke a tie with Jason Kidd for the most playoff triple-doubles against the Raptors. If he grabbed a couple more caroms in Game 2, he would have three triple-doubles in his career against Toronto.
Preparation for the Games
The 14-time All-Star was so exhausted after the Indiana Pacers series that he sought a different kind of therapy. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explains the regimen that James had to go through to prepare his body for the daily grind of the playoffs.
“…James was asleep by 10 p.m., part of a multiday effort to recover from the beating his body took over a grueling two-week series with the Indiana Pacers. James got nine hours of sleep and was doing almost nonstop recovery methods during the time he was awake. James was so focused on refreshing himself that he underwent cupping therapy, something he hasn’t used for years. The technique uses suction cups across the body in an effort to promote healing. It has become a bit of a fad among NBA stars recently, with Russell Westbrook and James Harden being two of the players to have used it this postseason.
“Whatever it was, the results were evident.”
Calling His Shots
According to Love, James called his shots during Thursday morning’s shootaround. He knew what needed to be done.
“I actually stopped him on the way back, when he went over his right shoulder then he went over his left shoulder. He said when he got the mismatch that he was going to do that. He actually called his shots this morning. That’s just one of the examples that I could use for how locked in he was throughout the entire shootaround. Just knowing what was at stake for us and getting a 2-0 lead is huge.”
Cavaliers' Kevin Love said LeBron James told him Thursday morning he would attack mismatches w/ fadeaway jumpers over each shoulder, then did it in Game 2: "He actually called his shots this morning. That's just one of the examples I could use of how locked in he was." pic.twitter.com/PBJXIkOhKr
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 4, 2018
Let’s see how the Raptors respond to the classic beatdown that they received, not only from James but also from the Cavs overall. Even if the rest of the team struggles, it’s a good thing they can trust the Raptors Killer to bail them out.
Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland at 8:30 pm EST.