- PG: Kyrie Irving
- SG: J.R. Smith
- SF: LeBron James
- PF: Kevin Love
- C: Tristan Thompson
Game 4 Pick & Preview of Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
The Cleveland Cavaliers looked like a team of destiny for a second, and then they had their Eastern Conference Finals series shift to Canada. There the Toronto Raptors exacted a stout home court advantage, displaying smothering defense and enough offense to stave off any talk of a 4-0 sweep. And maybe, just maybe, the dinosaurs may not be dead in this series.
That aforementioned home court edge leaks into Monday night, when the Raptors will host LeBron James and co. at the Air Canada Centre for the second straight time. Toronto really put the clamps down defensively last game, stifling Kevin Love in all regards (just three points scored) and making Kyrie Irving look even worse (3 for 19 shooting from the floor).
Two massive keys allowed the mild resurgence, as Kyle Lowry rediscovered his offense (20 points) and paired with DeMar DeRozan’s strong 32-point effort, Toronto put forth their best offensive performance as a team in this series. The other huge key was the lifted play of center Bismack Biyombo, who was still inconsistent on offense, but dominated the glass en route to 26 rebounds. Biyombo was a much bigger force in regards to protecting the rim, as well, discouraging James and Irving from penetrating as much as they’d like, while also swatting four shots on the day.
That was precisely the recipe we laid out for success going into game three, and if the Raptors want to officially make this a serious series, they’ll need a repeat performance in front of their home crowd. The potential return of big man Jonas Valanciunas can only help, as well.
Cleveland Cavaliers Preview
Cleveland failed to catch on complete fire from outside for the third straight game in this series, but for the first time they unfortunately were not able to impose their will in the lane, ending game three shooting a miserable 35% from the floor.
The Cavs clearly felt a momentum shift at least in the spirit of defensive capability with game three going to Toronto, and outside of LeBron James battling his way to 24 points, Cleveland didn’t really manage much resistance in the 15-point defeat.
Gone is the talk of Cleveland being the first team to go undefeated in post-season play, but come game four, they can still turn right back around and take full control of this series. The key will continue to be finding a way to shut down Kyle Lowry, who evidently does not know how to stay composed and focused on the defensive end when his shot isn’t falling. Lifeless through the first two games, Lowry did finally get his game going offensively, and on the other side looked to have the confidence to stifle Kyrie Irving.
Another issue could be combatting Toronto’s new found depth down low, should Jonas V indeed take the court after sitting out several games with a sprained ankle. Biyombo has been a problem (in game three specifically), but Valanciunas is a much better offensive player and is just as much of a hindrance defensively, both as a shot-blocker and rebounder.
Cleveland does have the size and toughness to withstand the return of Valanciunas, but it could also put them in a precarious spot. Does Jonas V’s return shake up their starting five, does Timofey Mozgov leak into the rotation or does Kevin Love’s role take a hit? It’s likely not much changes, but if Valanciunas’ return is big and effective, it could certainly alter Cleveland’s approach going forward.
|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|
|5/6/16||at Hawks||Win 121-108|
Toronto Raptors Preview
Most NBA fans and experts didn’t believe the Raptors had it in them to steal even one game after two sorry efforts to open up the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals – us included. Toronto’s strong home record held firm, however, and they did a great job getting back to the basics that made them the #2 seed in the first place – slow, methodical offense and strong, assertive defense.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were finally on the same page at the same time for a change in these playoffs and Biyombo was arguably the x-factor at a time when the Raptors desperately needed him to be the difference. He could continue to be a game-changer in game four – and probably needs to be – but the fact that he could at least get some help with a returning Jonas Valanciunas could really give the Raptors another lift at a perfect time.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Patrick Patterson
- C: Bismack Biyombo
Toronto needs to keep game four to their liking, which means half court offense, taking care of the basketball, playing up on their man and closing out and contesting shots on defense. They allowed Cleveland to both penetrate at will and get out and run in the first two games, and that plays right in the Cavs’ hands. Toronto needs to keep doing what they managed to do in game three, and if they can, they’ll have a very real shot at tying this series back up at 2-2.
It’s a crazy thought, seeing as Toronto seemed as dead as can be just a few days ago. However, when their top two offensive players are both hitting shots, it seems to give both a defensive spark, which tends to ignite the rest of the offense. Toronto has yet to top even 100 points in this series, and provided their defense shows up like it did last game, it might be okay if that trend continues.
|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|
|5/13/16||at Heat||Lost 103-91|
Matchup Preview: Raptors @ Cavaliers
On paper, this really did look like a potentially tight matchup from the beginning. Both teams have outside shooting threats, both teams have offensive stars that love to penetrate and kill defenses with the mid-range game, both offenses tend to operate at slower paces and both defenses are balanced and stingy.
Oh, and both teams excel on their home floor. If we look at all of that, a 2-1 lead for the Cavs is what we should have anticipated, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten.
|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|
If we look back at this series going back to 2014, it’s one the Cavs have narrowly led, winning 6 of 10 games. Whoever can enforce their will more ends up being the victor, though, and it largely hinges on defensive effort. Toronto has won just two of their games by scoring over 99 points, while all four of their wins have come with Cleveland scoring 97 points or less.
The story has been fairly similar for Cleveland, with three of their wins allowing Toronto to score 100+ points, and the other three keeping the Raptors in check at 91 or fewer points.
Obviously the better defense is likely to pull through, but this also shows us that when the games display more running and a higher pace, Cleveland benefits and wins. In fact, in all three games where both teams topped 100+ points, Cleveland won.
|Win/Loss||57-25 (24-17 away)||56-26 (32-9 at home)|
If Toronto wants to even this series up, they need to dictate the tempo and continue to enforce their will defensively. Their chances of accomplishing that increase if Jonas V can hit the floor in game four. In fact, Toronto might even want to toy with a large lineup pairing both Valanciunas and Biyombo together and see how it performs.
Recommended Game 4 Bet
Toronto deserves some respect for their game three performance, both for not caving and avoiding a sweep, and for simply playing a great all around game at home. They clearly are a different team at home, and also have an ability to rise up when their backs are against the wall.
This is the third straight series where Toronto has at some point had their series in doubt, and they’ve been on the wrong end. Cleveland has not been tested like that, and if the game three version of the Raptors can be the team we see for the remainder of this series, the Cavs could seriously be in some trouble.
Unfortunately, trusting the Raptors just isn’t that easy. For one, they don’t score at a good enough rate, Lowry has been mostly trash in this series and we have no clue what Jonas V can bring to the table if he suits up on Monday. The Cavs are also quite good and will not be too keen on the idea of being held that badly in check for a second straight game. A close contest is very possible, but the Cavs know they can’t let this actually turn into a series. They need to win tonight and should pull away late to cover.
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