The Raptors hit a bit of a wall (no pun intended) in the first round but managed to win games five and six to put away the Washington Wizards 4-2. Meanwhile, the Cavs had their hands full with the Indiana Pacers and needed a four-point win in game seven to narrowly escape the first round.
Team Stats – After round one of the playoffs
No. 1 Toronto Raptors, 59-23
#5 in FG%, #2 in 3P%, #11 in RPG, #7 in Assists, and #4 in PPG
No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers
#14 in FG%, #15 in 3P%, RPG, and assists, and #16 in PPG
Cleveland won the season series 2-1
Projected starting lineups
Everything seemed to click for the Raptors this season. Toronto claimed the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history. For Toronto, the bench has been a key factor in the team’s success. This was on full display in game six against Washington. The now known “Bench Mob” opened the fourth quarter with a 23-10 run giving the Raps a lead that they wouldn’t look back on clinching the series avoiding a game seven.
The depth of the bench is great, however, success in the playoffs is typically dependant on your star players. The Raptors will be looking for guards Lowry and DeRozan to show up in the big moments if they want to keep this historic season going.
Head coach of the Cavs Tyronn Lue has run out a couple of different starting lineups this postseason. This unit worked in game seven so why not go back to it in the next series.
The gameplan for Cleveland starts and ends with LeBron James. Having him surrounded with three knockdown shooters is a tough task for any team to deal with. Those shooters making their shots is the question for the Cavs going into the series.
Tristan Thompson surprisingly was in the starting lineup for game seven. Especially since Thompson only played just 23 minutes combined in the prior six games. Thompson was big for Cleveland having 15 points and 10 rebounds over 35 minutes in what was his first start in 13 games. He could play a big factor in this series giving the Cavs some much-needed rim protection.
How the series plays out
The Raptors win if…
They stick with what has gotten them to this position, Lowry and DeRozan need to be the players that they are capable of and they do that best when they aren’t playing hero ball.
The numbers don’t lie they are the better team in this series and they have home court advantage.
The Bench Mob keeps rolling and picks up the starting unit when they hit rough patches. Players like Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, and Delon Wright could all play big roles in this team finally getting over the Cleveland hurtle.
The wear and tear of playing 82 games and then a tough seven-game series in round one take its toll on LeBron James and he runs out of gas.
The Cavaliers win if…
LeBron James is LeBron James and gets some help. The Cavs struggled in the first round offensively and when that turns around and players like J.R Smith and Kevin Love start making consistent shots from outside this series could swing in Cleveland’s direction really quick.
Stealing game one in Toronto would not only give the Cavs a 1-0 series lead but it would also plant the seed in the Raptors head of “oh no, here we go again.” That seed of doubt could be all Cleveland needs to knock out the top-seeded team in the conference.
Raptors vs. Cavaliers Prediction
Raptors vs. Cavaliers: Cleveland wins series 4-2.
After everything has been said at the end of the day, LeBron has dominated this Raptors team in late April and early May for the past two seasons. Narrowly escaping the first round could be a wakeup call for the rest of the Cavs team.
The Cavs won’t shoot as poorly in round two as they did in round one and once the shots fall this team will roll.
LeBron is the best player in the series and he has an edge mentally against Toronto’s stars. Toronto’s past two seasons have ended at the hands of the Cavaliers and this year will be year number three.
CHICAGO, USA – OCTOBER 13: Kyle Lowry (7) of Toronto Raptors in action during a preseason NBA game between Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors at the United Center on October 13, 2017 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)