LeBron James, Cavaliers Stun DeMar DeRozan, Raptors with Game 1 OT Win

LeBron James, Cavaliers Stun DeMar DeRozan, Raptors with Game 1 OT Win

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The Toronto Raptors are the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but they have a LeBron James-sized thorn in their side when it comes to the postseason.

That was the case once again Tuesday, as James and the Cleveland Cavaliers stole home-court advantage with a dramatic 113-112 overtime victory in Game 1 of their second-round playoff series at Air Canada Centre.

The Cavaliers eliminated the Raptors in each of the last two postseasons, and they took the first step toward extending the streak to three Tuesday despite not leading at any point in regulation.

James led the way with a triple-double of 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, overcoming a 1-of-8 performance from deep and a 1-of-6 night from the charity stripe by attacking the lane and scoring the final four points of regulation to force the additional time.

It’s hard to classify Tuesday’s loss as anything but a complete letdown for a Raptors squad that has struggled with postseason demons in recent years. ESPN Stats & Info noted the Cavaliers made history by coming away with a win in a game Toronto largely controlled:

The Raptors still had an opportunity to win at the end of regulation and overtime, but Fred VanVleet missed three-pointers on each possession. Jonas Valanciunas also missed a point-blank tip in the final seconds of regulation that would have won the game considering James missed his attempt at the buzzer on the other end.

Toronto’s final made field goal of regulation came with four minutes and 19 seconds remaining, and it carried that putrid offensive performance over into the start of overtime. The Raptors fell behind by six before making a late charge.

Tuesday will go down as a missed opportunity for the Raptors because James didn’t explode for one of his typical 40-plus-point performances. Instead, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam kept him in relative check in the early going by pressing up on him to take away his airspace.

VanVleet also got in on the action when he stared down the four-time MVP after the Cavaliers star shoved him away following a small scuffle. VanVleet appeared to be sending a message that the Raptors won’t back down again this year, but that fight disappeared when James took over at the end of regulation and Cleveland prevailed in overtime.

It was a gutsy performance for the 15-year veteran after he averaged 41.1 minutes per night in the first round against the Indiana Pacers.

“I’m burnt right now,” he said after Sunday’s Game 7, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com.

While he went to the bench in the first quarter and settled for jumpers at times, James still shined with the game hanging in the balance. He also received critical help from members of his supporting cast, which will be necessary to advance past the East’s top seed.

JR Smith (20 points and 5-of-6 from deep) and Kyle Korver (19 points and 5-of-12 from deep) each took advantage of openings when Toronto defenders collapsed on James, while Jeff Green provided an offensive spark off the bench with 16 points. Tristan Thompson notched his second straight double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds and helped to battle Valanciunas after the Raptors big man started off hot.

The balanced attack elsewhere made up for Kevin Love’s disappearance, as the Cavaliers’ other All-Star had just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.

That Valanciunas missed a number of bunnies down the stretch canceled out his earlier efforts, when he dominated the Cleveland frontcourt and propelled the Raptors to a double-digit lead.

He, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry spearheaded the quick start and aggressively attacked a Cavaliers team that struggled on defense throughout the season.

It appeared as though the Raptors would run away with Game 1 when DeRozan started off by attacking the basket with the bounce and as a cutter, which created a number of looks in the lane. Lowry also stretched the floor with his outside shooting and took advantage of subsequent openings when the defense pushed up by either probing off the dribble or hitting teammates in space.

The formula—along with timely bench contributions from VanVleet and Siakam—set the tone for much of the game until the cold streak to end regulation.

In all, Valanciunas finished with 21 points and 21 rebounds, while DeRozan (22 points) and Lowry (18 points and 10 assists) posted solid numbers.

Toronto will have the opportunity to build some momentum on its home floor during Thursday’s Game 2, but another loss and a 2-0 hole against James would likely spell the end for the East’s top seed.

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