If Kyle Lowry had drawn up his nightmare scenario for game five, it could not have been much worse than the 116-78 debacle that transpired in Cleveland.
Lowry had talked about the Raptors needing to go “punch for punch” with the Cavaliers on the road to limit Cleveland’s destructive runs, but they were floored within the early exchanges. The story of these Eastern Conference Finals has been the home team racing into big leads, and the hosts nailed their game plan, putting the Raptors in a franchise-worst 31-point half-time hole – yes, that’s not a misprint.
The Raptors point guard finished with 13 points (1-for-4 from downtown) and five turnovers in an out-of-sorts performance that was the polar opposite of his stellar play in games three and four, but he was not alone in having a rough night. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey did not mince his words in assessing the loss.
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"They kicked our butts - that's the bottom line," Dwane Casey said. "We didn't meet their physicality at either end of the floor. We had an opportunity to come in tonight and do something special, and we didn't get it done."
All the bad habits returned – failing to match the Cavaliers’ physicality, missing free throws (13), sloppy turnovers (19) – and the game was over as a contest early in the second quarter. With Cleveland leading 100-60 after three quarters, both teams turned to their reserves.
While Lowry and the Raptors went away from so many of the things that had been effective on their home floor, Love bounced back from his shooting slump to score 25 points. Irving added 23 to decisively win the point guard battle.
For all of the Raptors’ improvements over the course of the 2016 playoffs, their inability to rise to the occasion in big road games has been troubling. They were outplayed and outworked in game six in Indiana and Miami, and have been thumped in all three outings in Cleveland.
But now is the time for short memories as Toronto returns to the friendlier confines of the Air Canada Centre.
“We've got to take it one game at a time,” DeMar DeRozan said.
"It's one game," Casey added. "We've got to come out [in game six] with a totally different sense of urgency."
Lowry and his team-mates will have a chance to make amends in game six in the early hours of Saturday morning. Before then, there will be some painful film sessions to sit through.