- PG: Kyrie Irving
- SG: J.R. Smith
- SF: LeBron James
- PF: Kevin Love
- C: Tristan Thompson
Game 3 Pick & Preview of Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
Through two games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers have looked every bit the #1 seed they were heading into post-season play. LeBron James and co. have been in another gear, leaving the Toronto Raptors behind, grasping for straws.
It’s entirely possible that the series shifting back to Canada could bring change, but it’s not overly likely. To this point the Cavs have been nothing short of dominant, winning the first two games of a huge series by 19+ points, while managing to win every single playoff game so far this year.
Make it 16 straight playoff wins for Cleveland dating back to last year, and King James and co. very well could have a perfect playoff run on the brain. Never mind the trouble that lies ahead in the 2016 NBA Finals, if Cleveland is serious about running the table, they’ll first have to put their solid road record on the line and push the 2-seed Raptors to the brink.
The big question of course, is if the Raptors can prove they weren’t one of the weakest two-seeds we’ve ever seen, or if Cleveland can take one step closer to impressive history.
Cleveland Cavaliers Preview
Cleveland continued their hot run through the playoffs in game two, as LeBron James blasted Toronto for a sly triple double, pouring in 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 dimes. James was everywhere in game two, and even though he wasn’t as efficient as he was in game one, he certainly once again made his presence known.
All of the Cavs did, really, as Kevin Love dropped in 19 points, Kyrie Irving led the team with 26 points and J.R. Smith got into double figures with 12 points on 4-7 shooting.
For the second game in a row, Cleveland failed to torch Toronto from outside, yet still won easily due to intense defense and an infatuation with sharing the ball. That helped the Cavs top Toronto in the assists column (24 to 17), while Irving penetrated and abused the Raptors at will.
There hasn’t been a crazy formula or secret to Cleveland’s success through the first two games. They’ve gone at the Raptors straight up, defended them well and attacked offensively. It hasn’t always led to the lights out three-point shooting we’ve seen at times during their playoff run, but then again, perhaps those crazy performances are yet to come.
It may not matter. The Cavs are getting by without any trouble, simply playing their game and keeping Toronto from executing theirs. One key to that has been getting inside Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry’s head, who was so off and so frazzled in game two that he abandoned his team with two minutes to play in the first half so he could fester by himself.
Cleveland as a whole has been the exact opposite of that mind-set, completely together and fully prepared for everything the Raptors have thrown at them. To this point that hasn’t been much, though, and it’s tough to imagine any new, crafty jabs the Raptors could introduce come game three.
|5/19/16||VS Raptors||Win 108-89|
|5/17/16||VS Raptors||Win 115-84|
|5/8/16||at Hawks||Win 100-99|
|5/6/16||at Hawks||Win 121-108|
|5/4/16||VS Hawks||Lost 123-98|
Toronto Raptors Preview
The Toronto Raptors appear to miss Jonas Valanciunas on offense, and it’s quite evident they can’t get by with star point guard Kyle Lowry struggling so badly on offense. Lowry isn’t stopping Kyrie Irving on the other end, and offensively he is completely out of rhythm and visibly trying to do too much.
It’s hard for him to not feel the pressure, of course. This is his first Eastern Conference Finals series, games one and two were on the road in a hostile environment and Irving has admittedly been playing better defense than we’ve seen out of him in a while. Lowry is flat out just missing shots and getting inside his own head, however, so much so that he even threw a mini temper tantrum before the end of the first half in game two.
Part of the playoffs is composure and adjusting, and Toronto has not managed to execute either aspect as they prepare for their first home game of this series.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Patrick Patterson
- C: Bismack Biyombo
It’s true that few were shocked that the Cavs won big in game one or even took a 2-0 series lead, but going into game three, there suddenly is a strong feeling that Toronto cannot even consistently compete with the Cavs. A never-ending swing of momentum appears to be going on in this series, where Toronto may sport a glimmer of hope initially, but at the first sight of adversity, they begin to shrink.
That’s at least what has happened in the first two games, and with the Cavs as determined and focused as ever, it’s tough to argue it won’t happen again in game three. The Raptors played their best ball at Air Canada Centre during the regular season and did find some success against the Cavs during their season series, however. If they’re ever going to get back into this thing, it starts on Saturday in game three.
|5/19/16||at Cavaliers||Lost 108-89|
|5/17/16||at Cavaliers||Lost 115-84|
|5/15/16||VS Heat||Win 116-89|
|5/13/16||at Heat||Lost 103-91|
|5/11/16||VS Heat||Win 99-91|
Matchup Preview: Raptors @ Cavaliers
Cleveland probably did not bank on winning every playoff game thus far, but since they’re here and perfect, you better believe they’re going to be hell bent on at least sweeping the Raptors and getting to the NBA Finals unscathed. That is a serious kind of momentum that could boost their confidence, no matter who their opponent ends up being.
That is one narrative to buy into, but the other is just as glaring: the Raptors just aren’t that good. This is a team that is basically a two-man offensive crew, waiting on the fine moments where guys like Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll can chip in on more than the defensive end.
|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|
That’s a fun angle when you’re playing anyone but the Cavs, as Cleveland has found a way to snuff the life out of Lowry, while giving DeRozan just enough to keep him occupied on offensive. There has been little to nothing else from the supporting cast, however, and with Jonas V already ruled out for game three and doubtful for game four, the flicker of light in Toronto is starting to wane.
Toronto’s desperation grew to a foul stench in game two, where they promoted the lumbering Luis Scola to the starting lineup over the more versatile Patrick Patterson. It changed nothing, and simply showed us again how far the Raptors have to go at the position.
Toronto could still salvage this series with a big home win, but the reality is they’re not as good as the Cavs, they’re more banged up and they don’t have any momentum to speak of. It’s going to take Lowry and DMR being on the same page on the same day, and it might take a heck of a lot more than that.
|Win/Loss||57-25 (24-17 away)||56-26 (32-9 at home)|
Recommended Game 3 Bet
There is no reason to get cute and bet against the Cavs, even when it comes to the spread. They’re the pick straight up and after winning the first two games of this series by 19 or more points, it’s awfully tough to see them suddenly barely winning – let alone losing.
Toronto lacks the offensive firepower, their defense hasn’t been good enough, they have zero answer for Kyrie Irving or LeBron James and their top stars cannot get in sync with each other. The list really does go on if you’re looking for reasons to doubt the Raptors, but the truth is they might be one of the sorriest 2-seeds we’ve ever seen. They could (or should) have been taken down in either of their first two playoff series and if they don’t get swept in this series, it’ll be a rather shocking development. It’s possible Toronto shows some fight and keeps this one interesting, but they’re not winning and Cleveland will likely keep it from being in doubt late, as well.
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