By Frank McLean
I was not in the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night to see the second game of this Eastern Conference Final. I watched it from the comfort of home, but I didn’t need to be in Cleveland live to see for myself that for the first time this year that dreaded F word coaches hate use “Frustration” is showing in the Toronto Raptors.
That will happen to team who had 56 wins in the regular season and had not lost two games in row since March 23rd and 25th. This team has had more highs than lows this year.
The Raptors had been consistent all season. In fact, it’s something that head coach Dwane Casey preaches so much that team is probably sick of hearing it.
“If you are consistent you don’t have these highs and lows,” Casey said in Cleveland prior to Game Two.
“If you get emotionally high and emotionally low, you are never going to be successful in this league. You got to have consistent emotional approach and a consistent physical approach. I think that plays into us bouncing back throughout the year.”
However, human nature being such, when you have constant success and every time things start to go wrong you able to figure it out, and then suddenly everything you try doesn’t work, that dreaded “Frustration” can show up.
That’s what you see in the Raptors after two spankings in Cleveland and the player showing it the worst is point guard Kyle Lowry.
Lowry’s playoff statistics are like looking at a heart beats on an EKG graph. When Lowry can score 20 or more points in game, and he has only done it in five of their 16 playoff games, the Raptors are 4-1. Seven times he has scored 12 or fewer points in these playoffs.
Lowry is starting to show it in front of the world. With 2:30 left in the second quarter in Game Two, and score tied 46 all, he headed for the locker room. He said wasn’t hurt after the game, he just needed to decompress.
While he was in the room the Cavaliers went on a 12-2 run to close the first half.
It wasn’t just Lowry who stood out, the body language of the whole team as they headed into the locker room at half-time looked like the victims of a drive by shooting. The Cavaliers offensive power can make you look like that.
“You may be seeing something I don’t see,” Casey said after the game. “I don’t see quit. They beat us two games, but I don’t it’s not over yet.”
Casey is right the series is not over. The job of Casey and the rest of his coaching staff is to not yell and scream at their players, because it’s not their fault the Cavaliers are the better team. What they have to do is their best job of convincing them that it’s us against the world. The Raptors aren’t that bad. Counting the playoffs, they have won 64 basketball games this year, and in the regular season they did beat Cleveland in two out of three times (both times in Toronto).
But in reality, this is how a team becomes playoff tested, getting beat by a team that was expected to be in the NBA Finals. When this series is over, the Raptors will know what it will take to contend for a championship in the future.
Being around this team like I have all year I expect them to come out flying at home in Game Three trying to win one for the home fans, but the frustration is starting to show. It’s only human nature when you finally run into an opponent who is better than you and you can’t find anything to stop them.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.