After one of the strangest first-round series you’ll ever see, the Cavaliers have advanced past the Indiana Pacers in seven games. There’s no rest for the weary-- after just one day off, the team travels to Toronto to play the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Let’s see how this goes.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Enemy Blog: Raptors HQ
Online: Watch TNT, Fox Sports Go
Cavs injuries: None to report
Pacers injuries: None to report
Three keys to the game:
- What kind of lineup will Tyronn Lue trot out in this game? He went to a supersized lineup featuring LeBron at point guard while reinserting Tristan Thompson at center. Against the Raptors, who love to play traditional, plodding centers, Kevin Love at the five has more utility than it does against most teams. He can play players like Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl off the floor if he’s able to actually play well, something that didn’t happen for most of Round 1. He had an encouraging second half of Game 7, and the Cavs will need more of that moving forward.
- If the Cavs punch the Raptors in the mouth, how will they respond? This isn’t a Pacers team that didn’t know any better than to be fearless - there’s real emotional baggage. Lest ye forget:
DeMar DeRozan after Cavaliers swept Raptors: "If we had LeBron on our team, too, we woulda won." pic.twitter.com/UEgukLJm1S— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 7, 2017
The fact of the matter is that the Raptors have some emotional damage at this point-- the Cavaliers would be wise to hit them fast in this game, if they can, to see how Toronto responds.
- The Cavaliers bench got absolutely handled by Indiana’s second unit in Round 1. Toronto brings an even stronger bench-- probably the league’s best-- and Fred VanVleet is finally healthy for the Raps. They have dogged defenders, shooters, rebounders and smart players across the board. It won’t be easy for the Cavs. Hopefully extra LeBron James minutes makes it easier.
Jonas Valanciunas vs. whoever the Cavaliers play at center. The Raptors are so much better when Jonas is able to stay on the floor and anchor the Raptors offense while surviving on defense. If the Cavs aren’t able to make Toronto pay for playing their big, they are in an awful lot of trouble. If they can play Toronto’s bigs off the floor? They can win this series.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction:
The Cavaliers are completely spent. The Raptors have emotional baggage. I have no idea what will happen. Cavs 109, Raptors 105.