NBA Playoffs – Day 41

The Cavs advance to their second straight NBA Finals.

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For a few fleeting moments, this turned into an interesting series. The Raptors won both of their home games, and tied the series at two. Then, they went to Cleveland and received an ass-kicking the likes of which have been rarely seen in the Conference Finals. The good news is, they’re back home in Toronto, where they haven’t lost in the Playoffs, and haven’t lost to the Cavs all season long. That has to give them confidence that they can once again tie the series, and set up a Game 7, where they say anything can happen, even though the home team almost always wins. It won’t be easy, as LeBron-led teams have a tendency to take care of business when they feel like they’ve had enough of an opponent. Have they had enough of the Raptors? Haven’t we all? Actually, I kind of enjoy this Raptors team, at least when they’re at home and playing well. Can they dig deep and force a Game 7, or are LeBron and the Cavs punching their ticket to the Finals tonight?

8:28 pm – We’re welcomed to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto by Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson. At the very least, I really hope we have a close game so we don’t have to listen to these three talk about their all time favorite TV shows, or anything other than the game itself again. Making it through the game with these guys under normal circumstances is hard enough as it is.

8:37 – The Raptors win the opening tip, and Game 6 is underway up North!

8:38 – Kyle Lowry goes in for a layup, plus he’s fouled! He hits his free throw, and you couldn’t ask for a better opening play from the Raptors as they take an early 3-0 lead.

8:39 – Kevin Love hits his first shot, an open three in transition. It ties us up at three.

8:46 – LeBron takes an alley-oop from Kyrie Irving and emphatically throws it down. The Cavs are up on a 10-0 run, and the Raptors call a time out with the score Cleveland 15, Toronto 8 with 6:26 left in the first quarter. After a decent start, the Raptors have missed five straight shots and are already in danger of letting this one slip away.

8:50 – Mark Jackson says, “If Kevin Durant isn’t first team all-NBA, I don’t know who is.” I know who it is! You can look it up and everything. It’s Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James who are the first team forwards. I’d love to hear Jackson explain why those two don’t deserve it. I’m already fed up with our narrators.

8:53 – DeMarre Carroll banks in a runner, and the Raptors have responded well, scoring the last six points. It’s enough to make the Cavs take a time out with the score Cleveland 20, Toronto 16 with 4:22 left in the first quarter.

9:00 – Flagrant foul on Bismack Biyombo! He actually did it while getting a basket. His elbow caught Kevin Love in the dome before he laid it in, and after a lengthy review, the refs take away the basket, and hit Biyombo with a flagrant foul. Looked like he was just making a good ol’ fashioned basketball move, but he got hit with the flagrant. Love hits the free throws, and the Cavs lead, 25-16, instead of 23-18, which it was before the flagrant.

9:06 – The first quarter is over with the score Cleveland 31, Toronto 25. As they did earlier in the quarter, the Raptors responded well to adversity, and they’re doing a decent job hanging around so far. LeBron James already has 14 to lead the Cavaliers, and this could turn out to be one of those games where he takes it upon himself to lead the way to victory.

9:10 – Channing Frye leads off the second quarter with a three pointer, extending the Cavs lead to 34-25.

9:11 – FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

Jonas Valanciunas grabs an offensive rebound, gets fouled by Channing Frye, and then elbows Richard Jefferson, who flips out. It looks to me like Valanciunas was trying to apologize for the elbow, but Jefferson wasn’t trying to have it, getting in the Raptors big man’s face with strong words, and a stern finger point. It leads to another exciting review by the refs.

9:14 – After the dust settles, Frye gets called for his foul, and Richard Jefferson and Valanciunas get called for technical fouls, and I think Patrick Patterson does as well, because he came running in and shoved Matthew Dellavedova after the initial ruckus. Dellavedova misses the technical free throw (thanks to the extra T on Patterson), and the score remains Cleveland 34, Toronto 25.

9:20 – We’ve got a time out with the score Cleveland 37, Toronto 25 with 8:52 left in the first half. The good news is, the Raptors are already in THE BONUS, both foul-wise and blog-wise. The bad news is, despite staying in shouting distance, they haven’t really showed that they can do more than not lose by double-digits tonight.

9:28 – After LeBron is able to go in for a layup against three Raptors, we have a time out with the score Cleveland 39, Toronto 31 with 7:16 left in the second quarter. It’s been a bit of a foul fest in this one so far, with multiple reviews. In fact, the Cavs have committed one less foul (11) than they have made baskets (12).

9:33 – DeMar DeRozan gets a friendly roll on a jump shot, and it goes in. The Cavs take the opportunity to call a time out with the score Cleveland 39, Toronto 33 with 5:48 left in the first half. The Raptors continue to lurk, as neither team has really been able to get into a good flow, thanks to the frequent play stoppages the fouls are causing.

9:39 – DeMarre Carroll falls for a LeBron pump fake in the corner, leaving the baseline wide open. James goes all the way in for a one handed slam, and the Raptors need a time out with the score Cleveland 44, Toronto 33 with 4:16 left until halftime. LeBron’s got 21 points already.

9:43 – Patrick Patterson finishes off a Raptors fast break with a dunk, and it leads to a time out with the score Cleveland 44, Toronto 36 with 2:44 remaining in the first half. The Raptors are doing a really good job at keeping the score respectable, but they’re just not playing well enough to win thus far.

9:48 – The Cavaliers end the first half with a furious volley, and our score at halftime is Cleveland 55, Toronto 41. LeBron’s got 21 to lead the Cavs, and Kevin Love has 10 points and 9 rebounds. Kyle Lowry has 12 and DeMar DeRozan’s right behind him with ten to lead the Raptors. Toronto’s missed way too many open shots, and after hanging in there for much of the first half, those misses finally caught up with them. Compounding the Raptors issues is the Cavs 10-15 shooting on three pointers, whereas Toronto’s just 2-12 from long range.

9:52 – Time for another exciting episode of Today in NBA Playoff History, brought to you by Basketball-Reference.

It has been a rather lackluster day in NBA Playoff History, but let’s go back to May 27, 1991. There, we’ll find the Chicago Bulls advancing to their first Finals with a resounding 115-94 victory over their rivals, and to that point, Playoff tormentors, the Detroit Pistons. It was a particularly sweet victory for the Bulls, as the big win punctuated a Conference Finals sweep after the Pistons had eliminated them the prior three seasons. Michael Jordan had 29 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists to lead the way, and Scottie Pippen came up with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists. Isiah Thomas had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for the Pistons, but the torch was passed from them to the Bulls. On top of that, the Pistons skulked off the court at the end of the game, and most of them refused to shake hands with the Bulls! What a bunch of dicks! Anyway, the Bulls would go on to win their first of six titles.

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10:06 – Tristan Thompson flips up a shot in the paint, and the Cavs strike first in the second half, extending their lead to 57-41.

10:14 – We have a time out with the score Cleveland 68, Toronto 55 with 5:52 left in the third quarter. We’ve kind of settled into the “Cleveland is going to maintain this double digit lead” portion of the game.

10:22 – Kyle Lowry hits a three, but the Raptors are in a deep hole with the score Cleveland 80, Toronto 62 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.

10:25 – Jamie Foxx sighting! Jose Bautista sighting! Drake sighting! I wonder if they’re all enjoying being at this game as little as we all are watching it on television.

10:31 – The third quarter comes to an end with Kyrie Irving banking in a shot from the other end of the court. It was after the buzzer, so it won’t count, but it was still awesome. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry is doing everything he can to try and keep the Raptors in it. He sprung for 18 points in the third quarter, but unfortunately, he didn’t get much help from his mates. Heading into the fourth quarter, it’s Cleveland 86, Toronto 74. Lowry’s up to 30 points, but each one of the Cavs big three has at least 20, and they’re twelve minutes away from advancing to the NBA Finals.

10:35 – DeMar DeRozan hits a jumper for the first basket of the fourth quarter, and it makes this a ten point game, and gets the fans chanting “DEFENSE!” with their Raptors trailing, 86-76.

10:40 – LeBron James tips in a missed three from Kevin Love, and the Cavs are building their lead back up. The score’s Cleveland 94, Toronto 78 with 8:37 left in the game.

10:45 – We got a time out with the score Cleveland 96, Toronto 81 with 6:52 to go. I think I see the Raptors band starting to warm up…

10:51 – Time out with the score Cleveland 104, Toronto 83  with 4:28 to go. They were hoping it wouldn’t have to come to this, but let’s hand things over to the Toronto Raptors band…

10:57 – With the Raptors fans chanting, “LET’S GO RAPTORS!” and the Toronto players openly embracing and congratulating the Cavs players, not to mention that stirring rendition from the Raptors Band, I’d say it’s safe to say this one’s over with Cleveland ahead, 110-85 as the game winds down.

11:02 – The final buzzer sounds, and our final score is Cleveland 113, Toronto 87. LeBron James led the way for the Cavs with 33 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Kyrie Irving wasn’t far behind him with 30 points and 9 assists, while Kevin Love contributed 20 points and 12 rebounds. For the Raptors, Kyle Lowry submitted a valiant effort with 35 points. DeMar DeRozan scored 20, but no other Raptor reached double-figures, as they just didn’t put up enough of a fight to keep the Cavs from running away in this one.

For the Raptors, it was an anti-climactic end to the greatest season in their history. They set their record for wins in a season won their first seven game series, and advanced further in the Playoffs than they ever had before. They also gave the Cavs the biggest challenge they’ve faced so far in the Playoffs, as well as their first two losses. They should hold their heads high, and their fans should be proud.

As for the Cavs, they’re back in the Finals for the second straight season, and LeBron’s heading to his sixth straight, a feat matched only by the Celtics legends of yesteryear. They were clearly the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference, and they made short work of the opposition. Unlike last year, they’re fully healthy and have looked pretty unbeatable at times. Since this is a night of celebration for them, I’ll refrain from mentioning that they haven’t faced any teams nearly as good as the two remaining contenders out West, and just let them enjoy themselves.

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So, there you have it. The Eastern Conference Playoffs are over. Congratulations to the Raptors for their finest season in franchise history, and congratulations to the Cavaliers, your 2016 Eastern Conference Champions. We’ll see if they can keep up the good work, and who they’ll be trying to do it against, next week.

Author: tomeagher

Watching too much basketball.

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