NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers Round 2 Preview
The well-rested Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in what is a repeat of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors were the only East team not to get swept by the Cavaliers last postseason, losing in six games during the conference finals. They added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, two veterans known for toughness and leadership.
Regular Season Series:
Game 1: Cavs 94-91 Raptors
Game 2: Raptors 117 – 121 Cavaliers
Game 3: Cavaliers 116-112 Raptors
Game 4: Raptors 98-83 Cavaliers
The Cavaliers has beaten the Raptors 3-1 this regular season, the lone loss coming in a meaningless game that the Cavaliers rested Kevin Love, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Raptors rested DeMar DeRozan.
DeMar DeRozan vs J.R Smith – DeRozan is going to average 30 + in this series if J.R doesn’t have the right mentally. In the four wins against the Bucks, DeRozan averaged 26.5 PPG on 51% FG to go along with 4.3 APG. In the two loses? 17.5 PPG 24%FG on 0.5 APG. It’s safe to say DeRozan will need to light it up this series for the Raptors to have a chance against LeBron and co. Advantage: Raptors
LeBron James vs PJ Tucker – Look, I know PJ Tucker is a great defender, and has a great reputation of being a defensive irritant. The Raptors brought him in this year at the trading deadline and it’s been great for the Raptors. They wanted veteran toughness, and they needed to have someone to guard a LeBron James. Problem is LeBron James isn’t scared of Tucker, just like how he wasn’t concerned about Lance Stephenson. Advantage: King James
Kyrie Irving vs Kyle Lowry – Kyle Lowry hasn’t been the same since his elbow surgery that sidelined him for 18 years after the All-Star Break. Lowry struggled mightily in this Bucks series, averaging only 14.7 PPG on 40% FG and 28% from deep. Irving is a suspect defender most times, and Kyle Lowry averaged 20.5 points and 6.5 assists against the Cavs in the regular season. Lowry will need to do way more than he did in the Buck series to lift the Raptors. Advantage: Even
When shooting 42% or better from deep this season, the Cavs are 21-1. If teams can't make it difficult from Cleveland on the arc, this will be a quick series.
While Toronto is going small against Milwaukee by benching center Jonas Valanciunas for Norman Powell, they'd likely have to go back to their traditional lineup against Cleveland. Cleveland doesn’t have the greatest shot-blocker in Thompson or Love. Raptors will need everything to click, especially the front-line of Ibaka and Valanciunas to punish the Cavaliers inside, perhaps get to the bonus early in quarters with a player like DeRozan. In order for the Raptors to steal one at Quicken Loans Arena, they will need to play slow tempo basketball and not let Cleveland get on the fast break. That includes limiting their turnovers as well, something Raptors did well in the Bucks series. The Raptors will need to provide something more than the predictable 1on1 offense from Lowry and DeRozan.
No playoff team is making more threes per game than the Cavs (13.5), who are sinking them with 40.3 percent accuracy. Containing Cleveland's mix of Irving, Love, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye on the perimeter is a must if an opponent has any intention of winning.
Raptors has teased to be dangerous, but the inconsistent play of Lowry this postseason causes great concerns. The brilliance of DeRozan deserves an applaud, but King James and the Cavs will be well rested, and likely to be a better defensive ball club from this point on.
Cavaliers in 5.
Stats courtesy of B-Ball Ref