Things have been coming relatively easy so far for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals. The Cavs have not shot the ball well from behind the arc against the Toronto Raptors, shooting 35 and 33 percent respectively in games one and two. They are averaging 20.5 three point attempts a game so far in the conference finals, when against Atlanta it felt like they averaged that many three point makes. But despite that, the Cavs took care of business at home with ease, showing off the versatility of their roster and the various ways they can beat you if one aspect isn't working.
The Raptors have one of the best home courts in the NBA and are sure to come out with their best effort of the series in game three. Pride is on the line for Toronto, the Cavs must come out with the same hunger and intensity that they would if they were in a 0-2 hole.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (2-0) vs Toronto Raptors (0-2)
When? Saturday, May 21st at 8:30 p.m.
Where? Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Where on my eyeballs? ESPN
Enemy Blog: Raptors HQ
Perfection was not the expectation coming into the playoffs for the Cleveland Cavaliers. For those that believe in momentum, the signs pointed towards the Cavs destined to face some adversity along the way to the NBA Finals, some even identified them as vulnerable and the East up for grabs.
It's clear now that the switch has been flipped. Even though the Raptors are without Jonas Valanciunas due to an ankle injury. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are struggling and the Cavs have not fallen back into their bad habits of the regular season. They are not playing down to the level of their competition, they are not letting a talented Raptors team find their rhythm.
One thing that's stood out so far in this series has been the confidence of Tyronn Lue. The Cavs game plan against Toronto has been well constructed and Lue hasn't been quick to try and change it if Toronto hits a few shots early. The Cavs defense is shelling off the paint and going under screens, baiting DeRozan into taking mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper. Early in games one and two, DeRozan has hit those shots with consistency. He shot 5-7 in game one and 4-5 in game two. But despite his early success, Lue showed confidence in his scouting and DeRozan cooled off in both games. The bait has been too tempting for him so far in this series, as he has only taken six shots total within five feet of the basket and six total free throws. Coming into the series Lue stated that he was going to make Toronto make field goals instead of free throws, and that's exactly what he's doing.
The big three has been the catalyst for all of the Cavs success so far in the playoffs. Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined for 68 points in game two on a combined 24-43 shooting. The chemistry they have shown together and with the rest of the team has been off the charts in the playoffs.
Coming into game three, the recipe for success is more of the same. The Cavs must continue to beat them up on the boards, defend without fouling and shell off the paint. Nobody on Toronto has played this far into the season before and their tired legs are showing. As long as the Cavs continue to play sharp defense and unselfish offense, the Raptors being able to muster up enough offense to take a game from them feels unlikely.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
I think Lowry will have a better game in Toronto. His mental struggles feel nearly unprecedented at this stage from a player of his caliber. But even with a better Lowry and a home court advantage, I can't see Toronto winning this game. Cavs win 105-93.