For the Cleveland Cavaliers, game one was about as good as you could have hoped for. Despite Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson not having their best shooting games, the team was still able to come away with a very comfortable win. The aforementioned players also made up for their average field goal percentage with trips to the line, defensive impact, and with rebounding or play-making. The shots will fall eventually, but as long as the Cavs come out with that effort once again, this series should be short.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (1-0) vs. Toronto Raptors (0-1)
When? 7:00 PM ET
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? TNT
One of the biggest stories of game one was the Cavs ability to execute their defensive game-plan. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to take 29 shots, while P.J. Tucker, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell took 36. They also did a good job at forcing the Raptors’ stars to beat them with jumpers, rather than getting to the free throw line.
Getting to the line is one of the primary ways that the Raptors can control the pace of the game. Instead, the Cavs would blitz Toronto’s ball handlers looking to force turnovers and stay straight up as Lowry and DeRozan tried to initiate contact.
While Toronto outscored the Cavs in points off turnovers, the Cavs won the battle in transition by getting out and running after stops. Often both Lowry and DeRozan would force a wild shot looking for contact, and when it didn’t come they wouldn’t get back in transition. Meanwhile the Cavs would be off to the races, scoring with efficiency.
Discipline will be one of the biggest factors for Cleveland for the remainder of this series. Toronto doesn’t have the secondary ball-handling to counter this defensive approach from the Cavs. If the Cavs execute, they should be able to limit Toronto’s potent offense. If not, they have more than enough talent to take a game or two in this series.
Offensively, I expect more of the same from the Cavs. They were able to consistently generate good looks from behind the three point line, and abused the Raptors in the pick and roll. If Jonas Valanciunas starts again, I expect them to continue and try to expose him by pulling him away from the basket.
If the Raptors go small, the counter will be sustained energy. Cleveland needs to continue winning the battle on the boards and outworking Toronto. In the games Toronto won last season, they won the energy battle, as well as the battle on the boards. Without Bismack Biyombo, they don’t have anybody that can match the energy the Thompson brings to the table.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
As long as the Cavs bring the same energy they brought to game one, this shouldn’t be a problem. Cleveland is a very good home team and should knock down shots at a higher rate, now that they had a chance to shake off some rust. The Raptors are a very good team, but similar to past games against the Atlanta Hawks, the Cavs just create too many match-up problems. When Toronto goes small, they can’t rebound. They struggle to contain Irving and lose track of shooters. Plus there’s also the LeBron James problem. Cavs win game two 123-104.