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NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers vs. Raptors Game 5 Preview

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The Cavs return home in serious need of a win.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers trip north of the border didn't exactly go as planned. Losing a game was certainly possible - and maybe to be expected - but losing both Game 3 and Game 4 against the Toronto Raptors wasn't really expected by anyone. And if the Cavs were going to lose two games, it wasn't going to be like this.

A 2-2 series wasn't what anybody expected. And it makes Game 5 all the more interesting and important.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors

When: Wednesday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m.

Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio

TV: ESPN

Enemy Blog: Raptors HQ

Music: i - Kendrick Lamar

Keys to the game

  • Today at ESPN, Zach Lowe wrote about how the Cavs' defense has been awful and how the Kyrie Irving/Kevin Love duo is getting ripped apart in the pick and roll. Per Lowe, teams running a pick and roll against Irving and Love and scoring 1.207 points per possession. That would have the worst mark in the league during the regular season. This matters now because of Kyle Lowry, but it'll matter more in the Finals. Pay attention to this now and watch more later assuming the Cavs advance.
  • What this - and the Cavs' overall really bad playoff defense - hints at is a challenge for Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. Because of the Cavs' roster makeup - Love, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye all need minutes up front, plus LeBron James needs to play the four - rotation juggling is going to happen. So far, with Love struggling and Frye playing great, it's resulted in some cut minutes. That's not going to change. Love, by the way, hasn't played in the last two fourth quarters.
  • One defensive tweak  the Cavs could try, even if it means taxing LeBron even more, is to have LeBron defend Lowry at times, try to hide Irving on DeMarre Carroll and let J.R. Smith defend DeMar DeRozan. It's not perfect - and Smith has struggled on defense the last two games - but it might be better than sticking with the status quo entirely. More trapping at the top of the key when Lowry or Cory Joseph is the ball handler in the pick and roll is also a card Lue can turn to again. Toronto doesn't really enough off ball shooting to make the Cavs pay for such aggressive traps.
  • There has been some critiquing of LeBron for not doing enough and some have called on him to do more than he has. There are those that say he needs to score more and just do it all in order for the Cavs to advance here. Last night, by the way, he played 46 minutes and didn't rest in the second half while playing a pretty good all around game.
  • That, though, sort of defeats the point of having Irving and Love. Both were really good before the last two games and are too talented to be that bad again, probably. Maybe LeBron can do more on defense - he is the best one-on-one defender when the effort is there - but asking him to be everything on offense isn't the best option. This LeBron, with this team, is at his best when he's scoring and facilitating everything. Irving and Love (or at least one them) getting back to making shots fixes so many of the problems the Cavs have had. It's not a end all solution, but it's a pretty strong start.

Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction

I just can't see the Cavs losing this game and they still should win this series. It might be close and stressful, but I'll take the Cavs 101, Raptors 97.