- PG: Kyrie Irving
- SG: J.R. Smith
- SF: LeBron James
- PF: Kevin Love
- C: Tristan Thompson
Game 6 Pick & Preview of Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
The Cleveland Cavaliers made sure there were no doubts about who controls the Eastern Conference Finals, promptly disposing of the Toronto Raptors in an emphatic game five home win. That blowout reminded us yet again just how important home court advantage is in this series, as well as the erratic tendencies of one Kyle Lowry.
Lowry, fresh off of a gem of a performance in a huge game four, was nowhere to be found for the third time this series. Lowry’s offensive absence was one reason Toronto never really put up much of a fight, but their defensive effort killed them in the end, as they couldn’t keep track of Kevin Love and ultimately allowed the Cavs to connect on 10 treys and shoot over 57% from the field.
That defensive performance is unacceptable in a game five in a series of this magnitude, so it stands to reason Dwane Casey will have his guys playing the right way when this thing shifts back to Air Canada Centre on Friday night. Whether or not it actually saves Toronto and forces a climactic game seven, however, is open for debate.
Cleveland Cavaliers Preview
This series has gone precisely as planned for Cleveland when they’re been on their home court, as they’ve wiped the floor with Toronto on both ends in all three games at Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have attacked the paint relentlessly, finding ways to pick the Raptors apart with their mid-range game, finishing at the rim or collapsing the defense and kicking out to ready and willing shooters.
Games three and four went south with Cleveland’s Big 3 struggling, largely thanks to Kevin Love losing his stroke and also dealing with some knee and ankle woes. Love got his mojo back in game five, though, and head coach Tyronn Lue went on record that one of his key missions to start game six will be to get Love involved and confident in the offense, early and often.
If Love can once again show up, there is little reason to doubt the Cavs pulling away in this series and preventing a “winner takes all” seventh game. LeBron James declared earlier in the year before the return of Kyrie Irving (knee) that the Cavs may end up swaying whichever way Love goes and that their offense needs to run through him. As their best spot-up shooter from outside, that’s mostly rung true, with Love playing a key role in each of their three wins in this particular series and also enjoying solid runs in the first two series against Detroit and Atlanta.
Of course, this isn’t all on Love. Cleveland wasn’t efficient as a whole in the Toronto games and needs to be more focused and crisp with this third road game. If they can limit their mistakes, keep the defense at a high level and get solid production out of their Big 3, they could very well reach the 2016 NBA Finals by the end of the night.
|5/25/16||VS Raptors||Win 116-78|
|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|
Toronto Raptors Preview
Toronto readies what could be their last stand on Thursday night, as they try to regroup after yet another embarrassing blowout loss in Cleveland. The Raptors may not ever have answer for the Cavs in a road game, which could render forcing a game seven just a delaying of the inevitable. They also could be ready to hang their hats on even stealing two games in this series, especially with rumors circling that some of the players spent time at a casino prior to the game.
It’s tough to question focus and dedication in a time like this, but given how poorly the Raptors played in game five, it’s also impossible to completely dismiss it. Needless to say, if Toronto is at all distracted or simply settling for competing with the Cavs, this series is over and will likely end for them tonight.
That being said, we saw Toronto battle back and win two straight games against a Cavs team that many had begun crowning as NBA champs. Instead of lying down and letting the Cavs sweep them, the Raptors stood their ground on their home court and in game get one more shot to do exactly that again.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Patrick Patterson
- C: Bismack Biyombo
They’ve been no stranger to tough situations in these playoffs, playing in two game seven’s already and prevailing in both. Toronto is in a perfect spot to set up a third and once they get back to Cleveland, they’d be playing with almost zero pressure, with no one expecting them to dethrone King James and co.
How do they get there, though? For one, the basic recipe remains the same: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both need to bring it offensively. Their inside/outside game can help control the pace of the game, something that has clearly dictated who wins in every single game. While Cleveland does like a slower pace, they know when to enforce their run and gun ways, and the Raptors are the type of team to try to do it against. Toronto is a very good, smothering defense when they’re focused, however, and their defense plays right into a slow, methodical offense.
The return of center Jonas Valanciunas gave the Raptors a minor spark in game five, but to keep this thing alive, he may have to have an even bigger hand in game six. The Raptors do need to find a way to balance his offensive ability and getting Bismack Biyombo’s defensive impact on the court. If they can find the right mixture, they have a shot at keeping their home record unblemished in this series.
|5/25/16||at Cavaliers||Lost 116-78|
|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|
Matchup Preview: Raptors @ Cavaliers
Once again, these two teams continue to match up very well in the right setting, and that’s really been with the Cavs on the road. Cleveland has completely destroyed them at home, but when they travel up to Canada they’re a little more off their game and become vulnerable defensively for some reason.
It will be interesting to see how the Raptors use Biyombo and Jonas V together, and finding a way to get them on the court together could be something worth experimenting. Neither is a true fit at power forward, but Biyombo is athletic enough to contest outside shots and having two guys to rebound and block shots could be something worth looking into.
|5/23/16||Cavaliers 116, Raptors 78|
|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|
I doubt Casey rolls with that, though, so this one is more about Lowry and DMR both being on the same page – something of which has been a rarity throughout the playoffs. Lowry can’t want another game five performance, however, and the Raptors have been fantastic at home pretty much all year. They’ve also been in a lot of tight games and two very close series, so they know how to pick their spots and keep themselves in it until the end.
The biggest key of all could be embracing the idea of not winning pretty. Toronto needs to feed off of their defense by containing James and Irving and protecting the paint at all costs. If Cleveland gets hot and connects at a high rate from outside, so be it. However, when the Raptors contained penetration and got out and contested shots in games three and four, they not only limited the outside shooting success, but also got wins.
For the Cavs, it’s all about limiting Lowry and forcing their will on the Raptors. They’re the more talented team and after being to the Finals last year, they’re so close they can smell it. A veteran team like them knows the time is now to strike for the kill. It will be interesting to see if Toronto has learned enough in their deep playoff run to combat that edge.
|Win/Loss||57-25 (324-17 away)||56-26 (32-9 at home)|
Recommended Game 6 Bet
This really isn’t about trusting the Raptors. It’s been impossible to trust Toronto basically all year – specifically in these playoffs – but time and time again they have found a way to step up and stay alive. It’s almost a lock that they lose if they get to a game seven, but it’s tough to see them playing so badly again, much less getting owned on their home court.
The play here is the home team trend, as both teams have done their business on their own floor. The ATS numbers aid Toronto, too, with the Cavs going 0-4 against the spread in their last four games in Canada and in this series the home team is 8-0 ATS in their last eight games. Cleveland could very well rout or just win this game in general, but +6.5 is enough to give the Raptors the benefit of the doubt in game six.
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