The defending champs Cleveland Cavaliers and the #3 seeded Toronto Raptors square off in a match-up of two veteran teams. Both teams come into the second round after a somewhat hard fought first round series. Let’s see who has enough in the tank to push on to the Conference Finals.
Keys To The Game
On offense, Cleveland has been nothing short of great, leading all eastern conference teams in points per game (112.8) in the first round. Their “Big 3”, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love accounted for 83% of those points. The Cavaliers’ bench will have to provide more quality minutes so that the stars can be fresh for the fourth quarter and possibly the next round. At times, they settle for threes when a better shot is available. They need to get a little more action towards the basket. If Cleveland Lure Toronto’s bigs into committing fouls and take them out the game early will benefit in Cleveland’s favor.
Defensively, the Cavs are disappointing (especially for a contender). They surrendered 108.8 points per game against the Indiana Pacers. To put it in perspective, the only team that has given up more points have already been eliminated from the playoffs. They must find some type of answer at the rim. It could help if they can mix up the line-ups or even run more zone. They need to stop the penetration drives that lead to easy buckets inside or passes wide open threes. They can’t continue to give up this many points going forward if they intend to defend their championship.
The Raptors on offense have been very vanilla in the playoffs. They have averaged 93.8 points per game against the Milwaukee Bucks, which would rank them fifteenth out of sixteen playoffs teams. DeMar DeRozen leads the team in scoring for the playoffs (23.5 ppg.), which mean the rest of the team has not been scoring enough. Toronto will need to get big and try and bully the Cavs down low. Post up when available using the team’s height and length as an advantage. Get Cleveland in a lot of pick-and-roll action and switches to confuse their already lackluster defense. Take solid outside shots but do not force them, fight for open looks.
On defense the Raptors are a better team giving up the least amount of points in the playoffs (93.2). They will need to play sound man-to-man defense and stay away from double teams. Cleveland can and will shoot threes so Toronto should push them off the line and force them into long two point shots. They will need to box out and keep the Cavs into one shot every time down court.
The X- Factor for the Cavaliers is Tristan Thompson. He leads all players with 6.3 offensive rebounds per game in the playoffs. He needs to step up his game on the defensive side and provide the rim protection they sorely lack.
The X-Factor for the Raptors is Serge Ibaka. The newest member of the Raptors have been through the playoff gauntlet before and has a ton of experience. The Raptors will need his rim protection as well as some offensive production if they want to advance to the Conference Finals.
Prediction: Cleveland in five games. I just don’t think Toronto has enough offense.