- PG: Kyrie Irving
- SG: J.R. Smith
- SF: LeBron James
- PF: Kevin Love
- C: Tristan Thompson
Game 5 Pick & Preview of Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers
The Toronto Raptors surprised everyone yet again, controlling game four en route to a second straight win and a 2-2 series tie with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors almost blew a late lead in the fourth quarter, but ultimately shut down LeBron James, who didn’t even attempt a shot in the game’s final three minutes.
James and co. don’t figure to be quite so timid when game five shifts a suddenly tight series back to Quicken Loans Arena, although it’s interesting to see Toronto fight back after seeming like a team set up to be swept after two poor performances to open up this series.
Toronto had the defensive ability and scoring due in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan the entire time, but allowed the Cavs to dictate the pace of the game to open the series. Able to flex their muscle and direct the game they way they desired in the last two games, the Raptors are now creating doubt in the back of NBA bettor’s minds heading into the series’ turning point.
Can Toronto push on with this ferocious run, or will the Cavs regain their footing in front of their home crowd? Game five awaits on Wednesday night.
Cleveland Cavaliers Preview
A crucial story-line in this series has been the health and play of Kevin Love, who has dealt with knee and ankle issues the past two games and also has sat out two straight fourth quarters. Love has been a defensive liability for much of the year, but with his shot not falling and his health in question, we’ve seen his role decrease.
Cleveland could be in some trouble if they continue at this rate, as relying on Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye for extra offense is assuming more risk than hoping Love can find his touch again. That will understandably be one interesting development going into game five, as Love has stated that he is healthy enough to finish games, but head coach Tyronn Lue has not been comfortable with him doing so lately.
Losing game four was a mild shock in general, but even more since Cleveland finally caught fire from long range (13 three’s), having struggled from deep in the first three games of this series. They even shot well from the field, overall, but could not get strong performances out of either Love or J.R. Smith (3-for-12).
Offense wasn’t really the issue despite only scoring 99 points (held under 100 points in each of the last two games), as they allowed Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to control this game – both topping 32 points. Toronto is extremely tough to take down when their top two scorers are on the same page and their defense is in sync, leaving the Cavs with a lot of work to do in game five if they want to get this series back on track.
Buckling down on defense will be a good start, as Lowry can’t be given this much freedom offensively and Toronto put up 100+ points for the first time this series. Neither trend can likely continue if the Cavs want to get up in this series, 3-2.
|5/23/16||at Raptors||Lost 105-99|
|5/21/16||at Raptors||Lost 99-84|
|5/19/16||VS Raptors||Win 108-89|
|5/17/16||VS Raptors||Win 115-84|
|5/8/16||at Hawks||Win 100-99|
Toronto Raptors Preview
For the second game in a row, we rolled out the map to a big win, and the Raptors found a way to deliver. Toronto did waver late in the fourth quarter as Cleveland made an impressive rally, but solid team defense and the combined forces of Lowry and DMR put the Raptors over the top and put this Eastern Conference Finals series in doubt.
Toronto is clearly a very different team on their home floor, proving they can still play smothering defense and get stops in big moments when they need it most. It was still odd to see Toronto have strong overall success, seeing as Cleveland was red hot from long range and Kyrie Irving and LeBron James had little trouble getting good shots at will.
The key was flat out offensive dominance by Lowry and DMR, both of which connected on 14 shots and managed to miss no more than seven shots each. The Raptors also successful took Kevin Love out of the game for the second straight showdown and also made life on Smith hard when it came to attempting to knock down open looks.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Patrick Patterson
- C: Bismack Biyombo
The x-factor yet again may have been big man Bismack Biyombo, who continued to accept his small offensive role and do work on the glass and as a defensive disruptor. A healthy 11 rebounds and three blocks helped to make up for the absence of Jonas Valanciunas, who was a game time decision heading into game four, but ultimately did not take the court.
It’s very tough to imagine the Raptors keeping the clamps down with game five going back to Cleveland, so it could be absolutely crucial that Jonas V returns and Lowry and DMR can continue to put on a scoring clinic. Cleveland plays their best ball on their home floor and no home team has lost in this series on the year, so it could take an absolutely flawless performance from the Raptors to surprise for a 3-2 advantage.
|5/23/16||VS Cavaliers||Win 105-99|
|5/21/16||VS Cavaliers||Win 99-84|
|5/19/16||at Cavaliers||Lost 108-89|
|5/17/16||at Cavaliers||Lost 115-84|
|5/15/16||VS Heat||Win 116-89|
Matchup Preview: Raptors @ Cavaliers
As we noted going into this series in the first place, these two squads do matchup up exceptionally well on paper. The Raptors and Cavs both play good defense, are both tough to beat at home and can kill you with at least two elite scorers. The kicker was always going to be whether or not someone could steal a road win and if Toronto’s lack of a true presence at the four spot would come back to bite them.
|5/23/16||Raptors 105, Cavaliers 99|
|5/21/16||Raptors 99, Cavaliers 84|
|5/19/16||Cavaliers 108, Raptors 89|
|5/17/16||Cavaliers 115, Raptors 84|
|2/16/16||Raptors 99, Cavaliers 97|
|1/4/16||Cavaliers 122, Raptors 100|
|11/25/15||Raptors 103, Cavaliers 99|
|3/4/15||Cavaliers 120, Raptors 112|
|12/9/14||Cavaliers 105, Raptors 101|
|12/5/14||Cavaliers 105, Raptors 91|
|11/22/14||Raptors 110, Cavaliers 93|
The absence of Jonas V was also going to be an issue, but through four games, Biyombo has been about as good as anyone could have hoped. Toronto still hasn’t gotten much out of their power forwards, but luckily they’ve really stifled Kevin Love lately and Channing Frye hasn’t been overly amazing in his time on the court. Even more impressive is Toronto’s ability to hang in and get a big game four win despite the Cavs actually catching fire from outside.
The return of Jonas V (possibly) could really give the Raptors a shot in the arm, and there’s little denying they currently have the momentum in this series. However, Cleveland is amazing at home and after nearly pulling off a sick comeback last game, could be ready to play a complete game and take this series back.
|Win/Loss||57-25 (33-8 at home)||56-26 (24-17 away)|
Recommended Game 5 Bet
Make no mistake about it, the Cavs are going to win this game. Game five is usually a huge turning point in the NBA playoffs, especially for a road team that can stage an upset. An upset is unlikely, though, as it’s tough to see Cleveland lose a third straight game, fall at home and lose a game that could push that one loss closer to falling short of a return to the NBA Finals.
That being said, Toronto deserves some credit for winning the past two games when they could have easily caved. The Cavs have destroyed Toronto at Quicken Loans Arena, but with so much on the line, we need to bet like the Raptors are actually going to show up. Because of that, we’ll take Toronto and the points in game five.
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