The Cleveland Cavaliers took back control of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 116-78 blowout win over the Toronto Raptors in Game 5 on Wednesday night. Cleveland is now one win away from its second straight trip to the NBA Finals and will get a chance to book that ticket Friday night in Toronto.
The Cavaliers' mercurial performance in this series took a hard swing for the better Wednesday night. Coming off two tough losses on the road in which the opposing backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan scored at will, Cleveland dominated on both ends of the floor to take a 3-2 series lead.
A hot start by the Cavs put this game out of reach early. Cleveland was leading by 18 points after one quarter, 31 after two and 40 after three. The Raptors have literally never faced a deficit that large at halftime since coming into existence 21 years ago.
The Raptors have never trailed by 30 at the half, regular season or playoffs, in franchise history. They're down by 31 at half.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 26, 2016
Toronto could never make it a close game from there. After two big wins at home to tie the series, the Raptors reverted back to the struggles that put them down 2-0 in the first place. Cleveland regularly found opportunities in the halfcourt via the pick-and-roll and managed to neutralize the Lowry-DeRozan combo that punished them so badly in the previous game.
Instead, it was the Cavaliers' stars who completely dominated Game 5. LeBron James had 23 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 32 minutes. Kyrie Irving scored 23 on 9-of-17 shooting. And maybe most importantly, Kevin Love came to life with 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting in a monster turnaround from his terrible performances on the road. Lowry and DeRozan, meanwhile, combined for just 27 points two days after going for 67.
The Cavaliers shot 57 percent as a team, including 10-of-21 from three-point range. They dominated in rebounding (48-27), recorded two fewer turnovers and limited the Raptors to just a trio of three-pointers. It's easy to fixate on the big scoring total and the scoring margin, but even if you look deeper, this was a complete dismantling of Toronto that makes it easy to wonder how we even got to a fifth game in this series.
Now Cleveland gets the chance to close out Friday night, unless Toronto can muster some more of that Canadian magic at home. The Cavaliers have certainly earned that chance after an impressive effort Wednesday night.
Three more things from Game 5:
Love blooms again
Some rough shooting nights in this series have only fueled discussion of Love's deficiencies, but when the forward is engaged and shooting well, he remains a weapon. Love started out hot in Game 5 and built off that early confidence to put together one of his best games in weeks. He was extremely efficient from the field and went a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line. He made some plays on defense with two blocks and a steal. He had this gorgeous long-distance pass:
There were times when Love just disappeared from the previous two games. This was much closer to what the Cavaliers need from the former All-Star to reach their potential.
Toronto needs to rebound (literally and figuratively)
One of the biggest ways the Raptors can rebound from their brutal Game 5 is by actually rebounding better. The team's effort in that department Wednesday night was simply unacceptable in such a crucial game. It's one thing when the Cavaliers are nailing ridiculous shots all over the place. It's another to let them get extra chances on offensive rebounds even when they miss. Cleveland had 10 offensive boards in this game to Toronto's five and had 21 more rebounds overall. Tristan Thompson had five offensive rebounds on his own. It's hard enough to beat the Cavs when they're shooting well. You cannot compound those issues by getting wrecked on the boards, too.
Hope comes on home-court
As the series heads back to Canada for Game 6, the Raptors will have to hope they can pull off another huge win at Air Canada Centre. Toronto has gone 8-2 at home in the playoffs, including the two big wins in this series, and will have to hope that the home crowd can fuel it to force a Game 7. The Raptors outscore opponents by 5.4 points per 100 possessions at home this postseason, per NBA.com. On the road, they're getting outscored by over 14 points per 100 possessions. While that may not give Toronto a ton of hope for winning the series -- Cleveland is 7-0 at home this postseason and would be heavily favored even if this goes to seven -- the Raptors should stand a much better chance of extending this series on their home court.
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