So who's down for a potential Eastern Conference Finals Preview on Friday night?
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Air Canada Centre - Toronto, Canada
Enemy Blog: Raptors HQ
Music: Exodus 23:1 - Pusha-T
Keys to the game
- Make no mistake about it: the Raptors are really good and this is the most likely Eastern Conference Finals matchup. They might not be on the Cavs' level, but the Raptors are the clear second best team in the conference. Both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are All-Stars, Terrence Ross has improved some and they've developed a defensive identity in place of last year's team that lacked a definite one. Replacing the likes of Lou Williams with Corey Joseph matters and it's helped the Raptors get better.
- DeRozan and Lowry are the type of backcourt that can give the Cavs' defense a ton of issues. Of late, Tyronn Lue has shifted Kyrie Irving onto the oppositions weaker guard (i.e. the one who isn't going to attack the rim and look to score as much). That really isn't an option here.
- This is mostly DeRozan and Lowry operate as co-lead guards. Lowry is the one pulling all of the strings, but DeRozan does his best work with the ball in hands and attacks the rim over and over again. He plays some three - and does so more often now with DeMarre Carroll out - but he's a massive, bulky two. IrStving can't handle DeRozan and while he'll have a hard time with Lowry, it's best to have J.R. Smith defend DeRozan with LeBron James defending him some as well. If Carroll is healthy in the playoffs - and it's not guaranteed he will be - it'll make the Cavs' life a bit more difficult.
- In terms of standings, the Cavs are currently three games up on the Raptors. It's not a huge lead, but it speaks to how good the Raptors are. A win here doesn't change things much, but getting the lead up to four games would be a positive.
- Channing Frye can play a useful role in this game. Bismack Biyombo gives the Raptors solid rim protection off the bench and Frye can pull him out the lane. If the Raptors decide to use him on Kevin Love instead, perhaps this would be the game to roll out a Love-Frye duo for a few minutes here and there.
- Friday's game kicks off an interesting stretch for the Cavs. After the Raptors, the Cavs play the Wizards on Sunday, the Pacers on Monday, the Wizards again on Friday and the Celtics on Saturday. That's all teams in or near the playoffs. Now would be a good time for the Cavs to further cement their dominance of the East.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
This will probably be close and the Cavs will probably struggle some on the road. Expect the defense to look at bit off too, as Lowry and DeRozan can and will score. But the Cavs had a day off and should be sharp. Cavs 101, Raptors 97.