It hasn't been easy for the Toronto Raptors, but they've reached the stage many expected them to a month ago when the NBA Playoffs began. The second seeded Raptors clinched their first spot in the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday afternoon after a convincing win over the Miami Heat in Game 7. Their reward is a series with the Cleveland Cavaliers that will begin in Northeast Ohio on Tuesday night.
They will likely be without the services, at least early on, of Jonas Valanciunas who coach Dwane Casey recently said was "nowhere close" to being ready to return due to an ankle injury. In his place, Bismack Biyombo has stepped in to a bigger role and more than held his own. With Valanciunas' absence, however, it's been difficult for the Raptors to score consistently. Kyle Lowry has rebounded of late, but started the playoffs shooting poorly. DeMar DeRozan might be costing himself some money with his play, but enough teams will have cash to burn this summer that perhaps he'll be fine either way.
On paper, the starting 5 of Lowry, DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, and Biyombo is pretty good, and the pieces fit together. Cory Joseph is a good backup point guard. Perhaps Terrance Ross will get hot for a few games. Luis Scola has given Kevin Love some trouble this season. It's possible the Raptors could push the Cavs a bit. All this said, they simply haven't played very well in series with the Pacers and Heat. They advanced, but will need to find another gear, and soon.
Stay tuned for tons of coverage.