The Cavaliers-Raptors series tips off tonight at 7 PM ET, and the Cavaliers should have their hands full defensively with the Raptors two lead guards.
Tyronn Lue obviously won’t dive into the intricacies of the gameplan, but he did mention that keeping the Raptors off the free throw line will be key.
"I just think we have to do a good job on both of those guys," head coach Tyronn Lue said following Sunday's practice. "Make them make field goals and not free throws, that's my biggest thing. Keep them off the line and make them make shots. If we can do that it can work out for us, work out in our favor."
That makes sense. DeMar DeRozan specifically is a total non-shooter from three-point range, getting all of his buckets from midrange, at the rim, and specifically, at the free throw line. DeRozan had a free throw rate of 41.9 in the regular season that he raised all the way to 46.7 in the postseason so far, per basketball reference.
J.R. Smith, who will likely be the primary defender on DeRozan echoed Lue’s sentiments about keeping the Raps guard off the line.
"Making him take tough shots, keeping him off the free throw line," Smith said when asked what he would consider a successful night defending the Raptors' leading scorer. "Not fouling. If you can get out of the game with probably a foul or two, him shooting five free throws or less, that's pretty good. I think he's averaging eight or nine free throws a game, so just try to keep him off the free throw line, keep him from making those spectacular plays, those dunks he has, stuff like that. It will be a tough task but I think we're up to it."
Kyle Lowry for his part averages 6.1 free throw attempts per game, and is coming off a slog of a series against Milwaukee. Lowry should have an easier time in this series though. The Cavaliers haven’t been as good defensively as Milwaukee, and Kyrie Irving is not the kind of defender that either Malcolm Brogdon or Matthew Dellavedova are, and the Cavaliers don’t come close to having the length that the Bucks do as a team.
Lowry’s struggled in the playoffs, but had a much stronger series against the Cavaliers last year. Lowry put up 20.2 points, 4.2 assists and 4.5 boards on 47 percent shooting in that series.
Neither is an easy cover, and they burn defenses when they lose focus, something the Cavs have had a propensity for this season. That said, if the Cavaliers manage to contain the two-headed attack from the Raptors guards, they should have little problem in this series. Let’s see what Ty Lue cooks up.