Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Raptors vs. Cavs
*Photo via Bleacher Report
Tonight at 8:30pm EST on ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Both of these teams have had different paths leading to this one-two seeded showdown. The Cavs led by LeBron James have yet to lose a game during these playoffs, sweeping the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. For Toronto the road has been bumpy, they squeezed by the Indiana Pacers in seven games and defeated the Miami Heat in seven as well. Now the stage is set for Cleveland's big three against one of the best backcourt duos in the game. Toronto got the best of the Cavs in the regular season, winning two out of three games. With a trip to the finals on the line, several factors will determine who walks away victorious.
*Photo via Yahoo
Lowry & DeRozan:
There’s no question that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are imperative to Toronto’s success. Much of the reason that the last two series have gone seven games is due to their horrid shooting. Lowry and DeRozan are both shooting under 40 percent from the field and below 30 percent from behind the arc, (DeRozan is shooting 18.5 percent from deep) and with that, in loses they’re both averaging under 15 points per game. While in wins this postseason, they average over 20 points a game. Solution? Keep shooting. We saw Lowry look like his regular self in Game 7 against Miami, he went off for 35 points in the blowout win. A sigh of relief can be heard throughout the “North” as it looks his slump may be over. For DeRozan, who is struggling with an injury to his wrist, him getting to the line will be key. In eights wins these playoffs, DeRozan averages just over eight free throw attempts, in loses just over four. Summary, Lowry and DeRozan must stay aggressive and shoot through their slumps.
As I said before DeRozan is dealing with an injury to his wrist, but he’s not the only one. The big man down low Jonas Valanciunas is out for Game 1 tonight, and is doubtful for Game 2 according to Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. With Valanciunas out for possibly two games, it puts Toronto in an odd predicament. Valanciunas is the X-factor for this Raptors squad, his presence in the post is a mismatch against most, due to his size. This postseason so far he’s averaging 15 points a game on 55 percent shooting while pulling down 12.1 rebounds a game. Fact of the matter is, the Raptors NEED him to pull off the upset.
16.5 to 10.5, those are the Raptors turnover numbers in loses to wins. This isn’t something new in the world of the NBA, the more turnovers you have the worse off you are. An against the Cavs and their new uptempo play style along with the barrage of threes they’ve been shooting (and hitting), extra possessions need to be limited. If Toronto can take care of the ball while remaining aggressive, it may work in favor of disrupting the Cavs flow.
*Photo via USA Today
Who’s been the hottest team from behind the arc this postseason? I'm sure you're thinking it's the Warriors, however, the Cavs have been the team shooting lights out. Through eight games they’re averaging 36 attempts from deep while cashing in on 46 percent of them, yes, I’m talking about a team with the hot hand. We’ve seen the best form of the Cavs these past two series and the result were two sweeps, if the Cavs come out just as hot. Watch out Toronto.
The Cavs have been sharing the ball better than any other team besides the Warriors of late. Unlike a majority of the regular season you don’t see the same stagnant offense of watching LeBron James or Kyrie Irving man the ball and go to work themselves. James looks to pass more often as his confidence in his supporting cast and among their big three has grown. While Irving has looked more willing to give up a good look for a better look. When a team is sharing the rock, great things tend to happen. For Cleveland’s sake they hope it continues.
Love at times this year looked out of place within the Cavs big three. Thus far through the playoffs, however, it’s hard to imagine Love not fitting in. Kevin Love is finally playing the type of basketball that everyone had envisioned when he headed to” the Land.” Averaging 18.9 points per game, a couple assists and most importantly 12.5 rebounds per game. He’s finally found a rhythm that has elevated the Cavs play. Now he isn’t perfect from the field, as he’s shooting below 40 percent, but behind the arc is a different story as he’s shooting 44 percent. In many ways, Love is the X-factor for the Cavs. If he can knock down threes, and grab a handful of boards, while dishing out those sweet outlet passes. He gives the Cavaliers another lethal weapon on the court.
Cleveland’s big three vs the Raptors All-Star backcourt is set. If the Raptors can get hot while taking care of the basketball, along with the return of Valanciunas they may put the NBA on notice. For “the Land” if the hot hand remains hot and the ball is moving, they may coast to a second straight NBA Finals appearance. Only time with tell.