It feels like it’s been several years since the Cavaliers last played honest-to-god basketball, but the long wait is over. The team hasn’t suited up since April 23rd, and their second-round series against the Raptors is set to begin. The Raptors lost two of their first three to the Bucks before rallying and winning three straight to close out a series that both validated concerns about the Raptors in the postseason and high hopes for the Bucks future. But now, it’s time for the real test.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors Game 1
When: Monday, 7 PM ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where to watch: TNT
What to Watch for:
- What lineup will Dwane Casey start and finish with? The Raptors swapped out Jonas Valanciunas for Norman Powell against the Bucks, and they might have to get even more unconventional against the Cavaliers. If I were coaching the team (and Toronto thanks God that I am not,) I’d roll with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson and Serge Ibaka.
- Valanciunas is going to have a hard time in this series. Tristan Thompson has traditionally stolen his lunch money in the post, and the Raptors won’t want him guarding all the way out to the three point line on Kevin Love or Channing Frye. He may have to start and the Raptors could just bank on him raising his level of play.
- There’s not a great hiding spot for Kyrie Irving in this series, at least when the Raptors have both Lowry and DeRozan on the floor. Irving will have to work on that end of the floor to at least bother Lowry, or the Cavaliers defense could be in for a long series.
- P.J. Tucker has been hailed as a LeBron stopper, and he certainly is a stout, smart defender. That said, LeBron had 3-4 inches on him, and Giannis Antetokounmpo still had a monster series in Round 1.
- Irving had a tough series shooting the ball against the Pacers. I’d expect that to bounce back, since most of his misses were on wide open jumpers.
- I think we should expect more Iman Shumpert than we saw against Indianapolis. He’s done a nice job against Lowry in the past, and his size can bother the Raptors star guard. That will likely mean that Deron Williams or Kyle Korver will lose minutes in the rotation. It’ll be interesting to see which direction Tyronn Lue takes.
- Overall, I think this will be a tough series whether it goes four, five or six games. Both teams have much different personnel than they had in last year’s series. We’ll see what kind of difference they make.