By George Thomas
Beacon Journal sports writer
Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey still has hopes of getting center Jonas Valanciunas on the floor against the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals and the longer the series drags on the more plausible that seems.
“Again, it depends on the lineup they have on the court,” Casey said during a teleconference call Tuesday. “I know he’s our starting center, but it’s tough to put him out there if they’re playing Channing Frye big minutes at the five. We just have to make sure that he has a matchup and he’s not out there chasing 3-point shooters all around the perimeter.
“But if he does get called, we’ve got to be able to make them pay and have him in the paint, posting up and getting touches down there. And also too, he’s going to be valuable for us because he is an excellent passer and can make plays from the top of the key.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the time to worry about Valanciunas is when he plays, though he’s still unlikely to be at 100 percent.
“Well, we know that he’s an offensive presence on the block and we know he’s physical down low, another great offensive rebounder, and he just gives them a big body that they can slow the game down and post the basketball,” Lue said. “We’re prepared for it, but we haven’t seen him play yet, so we’ve got to focus in on [Bismack] Biyombo and [Patrick] Patterson and [Luis] Scola and those guys right now.”
Game of threes
The Cavs took 82 3-point shots in their losses in Toronto and made 27, but they’re not going to give up on taking those shots if Lue is to be believed.
“We post LeBron, they’re coming in a double-team with Biyombo, so we’re kicking out for open 3s even when we penetrate,” he said. “They’re doing a good job of trying to clog the paint and take away our penetration. “We’ve just got to take what the defense gives us.”
Given the past two games, some might say the Cavs rely on the 3-pointer too much but point guard Matthew Dellavedova disagrees.
“I think we had a lot of good looks. We knock some more down, and nobody is talking about that. I think if they’re not going in,” he said, “we have to keep trying to recognize that and be aware that we need to keep a balance of taking it to the rim. If we keep pressure on the rim and it brings the defense in, then we’re kicking out for easier looks. It’s definitely a balance, but if they’re open, you’ve still got to take them and shoot with confidence.”
The way Biyombo’s playing might force the Cavs to go to their small lineup of Frye, Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson and LeBron James, more in Game 5 to get more spacing, Lue said.
“Well, we did that last game in Game 4 by getting Channing in early in that first quarter to spread them out,” Lue said. “We were able to get some open 3s. They were normally knocked down, we just didn’t make them. If we’d have made those 3s, it would have been a different game.”