It is supposed to be different for the Toronto Raptors this season.
After being eliminated two years in a row by the Cleveland Cavaliers -- including a four-game sweep last season -- the Raptors changed their approach, trying for a more balanced attack and creating an athletic and effective bench.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. As much as the Raptors controlled Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre, they could not close it out and the Cavaliers eked out a 113-112 overtime victory.
By losing the opener, the Raptors gave up the home-court advantage that they had earned by finishing first in the Eastern Conference.
They also put pressure on themselves to win Game 2 on Thursday at the Air Canada Centre.
"I think considering the circumstances, we definitely stole one," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said after Game 1. "I don't think we played our best game and I think they know that as well. Shooting 41 percent from the field, we usually do a better job. LeBron (James) is not going to shoot 12 for 30. We didn't play extremely well but to come in and play a good team like Toronto on their home floor, it does feel like we stole one."
Cleveland appeared to be ready to be taken in Game 1. They won Game 7 on Sunday to take a grueling series from the Indiana Pacers in which James had averaged better than 41 minutes per game. They did not have time to prepare for Game 1 against the Raptors because of the quick turnaround.
James said he was tired after scoring 45 points Sunday and showed signs of that Tuesday, although he had a triple-double with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.
"Definitely wasn't as efficient as I like to be," James said. "I missed a lot of open looks, open threes that were going under. A lot of floaters in the lane, and because of the injury I had in Game 7, I didn't get an opportunity to get on the court (Tuesday) morning and (Monday) as well. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is trying to get a win. My teammates were unbelievable tonight; they stepped up when I wasn't at my best."
"I thought we played defensively in some stretches as well as you could," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Offensively, I thought we had opportunities down the stretch where we had three tip-ins to win the game."
Toronto did some good things. Center Jonas Valanciunas had 21 points and 21 rebounds to become the first player in franchise history with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a postseason game.
But, the Raptors also committed 14 turnovers that led to 21 points for Cleveland and missed shots that could have put the game away. The Cavaliers made only six turnovers.
The Raptors missed their final 11 field goal attempts in regulation.
"Again, a lot of things we did to ourselves," Casey said. "Nothing special, nothing that we didn't expect, some uncharacteristic things that we missed, some shots that we missed I thought was the difference in the game. We are a better team, but we just didn't make the shots down the stretch.
"I know it sounds simplistic, but we had our open looks, had our opportunities that we didn't cash in on. There are some other things that we can clean up defensively that we can do a better job with also."
Cleveland never led during regulation but opened the overtime with an 8-2 surge. The Cavaliers are the second team in the past 20 postseasons to win a game despite never leading in regulation. The other was the Dallas Mavericks at the Oklahoma City Thunder on May 23, 2011.
The Raptors are 7-7 all-time in the second game of a playoff series, but 6-1 when playing Game 2 at home. They have won Game 2 four consecutive times at the ACC.
The Cavaliers have won seven straight playoff games against the Raptors dating to the 2016 Easter Conference finals. They hold an 18-1 series record after winning Game 1 of any postseason series.
A key to Game 1 was that the Cavaliers shot 40 percent (14-for-35) from 3-point range with JR Smith and Kyle Korver each hitting five 3-pointers. The Raptors shot 32.1 percent from beyond the arc (9-for-28). Toronto shot 42.9 percent (39-for-91) from the field overall, but only 20.8 percent (9-for-24) in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors will go into Game 2 knowing they let Game 1 get away.
"For sure, without a doubt," said guard DeMar DeRozan, who led Toronto with 22 points on Tuesday. "We had many opportunities to close this game out. Like you said, we couldn't buy a bucket, we had a lot of great looks, and we had a lot of shots point blank at the rim that went in and out. Freddie (Fred VanVleet) got two great looks, we can name countless of things, but it shouldn't have ever come down to pin on any of those. But it happens, and now we understand what we got to do next game."