Views From the 216: Cavs-Raptors Eastern Conference Finals Preview

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Cavs Second Round: Swept Atlanta 4-0
Raptors Second Round: Beat Miami 4-3

Season Series: Toronto won 2-1
Game 1: Toronto at Cleveland, Tuesday, May 17 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 2: Toronto at Cleveland, Thursday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Toronto, Saturday, May 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Toronto, Monday, May 23 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Toronto at Cleveland, Wednesday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Toronto, Friday, May 27 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Toronto at Cleveland, Sunday, May 29 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)

Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving. Photo Credit: Erik Drost

After steamrolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. The Cavs will open up the ECF tonight at the Q against the Toronto Raptors. Cleveland has dominated their opponents so far by averaging a postseason-leading 16.8 three-pointers made on 46.2% shooting. If the Cavs can keep up their impressive shooting, this could be an ugly series. Cleveland’s NBA record 25 three pointers in Game 2 against Atlanta was a thing of beauty and it shows just how dangerous this team can be. Toronto is playing in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. The Raptors enter this series after winning their first two matchups in seven games and they are a little banged up. Toronto center, Jonas Valaciunas will not play in Game 1 and is doubtful for Game 2 with an ankle injury. Raptors forward, DeMarre Carroll also battled a wrist injury in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The depleted Raptors will need their two All-Stars, Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan (both have played with injuries of their own) to play at a high level to make this an interesting series. The duo combined for 63 of Toronto’s 116 points in Sunday’s game 7 win over Miami, but they are shooting a combined 36 percent after the first two rounds. If the Cavs can keep Lowry and DeRozan in check, this will be a quick series.

Key Matchup

Raptors point guard, Kyle Lowry. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

The matchup to watch for in this series is between point guards, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. This year’s Eastern Conference Finals will feature a clash between two All-Star point guards and perhaps the two best guards in the Eastern Conference. Despite Lowry’s poor shooting percentage, he has shown up when it matters the most for Toronto this postseason. He struggled is a Game 1 loss to the Heat going 3-for-13, but on Sunday during Toronto’s second straight Game 7 this postseason, he was brilliant. Lowry scored 35 points on 11 of 20 shots and added 9 assists in the series clinching win. He has been battling a right elbow injury since January and he had it drained in late March, which may explain his recent troubles. Kyrie Irving has been terrific so far this postseason leading the Cavaliers in scoring, averaging 24.4 points in eight games. Kyrie has showed a strong defensive effort so far in the playoffs by handling Detroit’s Reggie Jackson and Atlanta’s duo of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. Irving will have more of a challenge against Lowry as he is a tough defender, and he hit can hurt you from both inside and outside of the paint. This will be an entertaining matchup to watch and I give the advantage to Kyrie Irving. Kyrie has been on a roll so far this postseason and I think that will lead into success against Lowry.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

The Cavaliers can become the first team in NBA history to go 12-0 on its way to the Finals with a sweep of Toronto.

Prediction

The Cavs will knock off the Raptors in 5 games. The Cavaliers are coming off another week of rest and are ready to go. It has been a historic year for Canada’s only basketball franchise, but their magical run will come to an end in the Conference Finals. Unfortunately, Toronto is too injury plagued to make this the competitive series that it could be. The question for Cleveland is can they continue their historic three point shooting from the first two rounds. It’s hard for any team to shot like that, but this Cavaliers team is special and is poised for a monumental run in June. The Cavs have shown that they are a legitimate championship contender and they will prove that once again by advancing to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.

Cavs-Hawks Round 2 Preview

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Cavs First Round: Swept Detroit 4-0
Hawks First Round: Beat Boston 4-2

Season Series: Cleveland won 3-0
Game 1: Atlanta at Cleveland, Monday, May 2 at 7 p.m.
Game 2: Atlanta at Cleveland, Wednesday, May 4 at 8 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Atlanta, Friday, May 6 at 7 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Atlanta, Sunday, May 8 at 3:30 p.m.
Game 5: Atlanta at Cleveland, Tuesday, May 10 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Atlanta, Thursday, May 12 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Atlanta at Cleveland, Sunday, May 15 (If Necessary)

Cavaliers power forward, Kevin Love. Photo Credit-Erik Drost http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

After a more than a week off, the Cavaliers begin the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals tonight against the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavs know the Hawks all too well as they swept Atlanta in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals and won all three regular season matchups this season. Cleveland has absolutely dominated the Hawks over the last year and this series could see more of the same. During last year’s conference finals, the Cavs were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving was out for the majority of the series with knee tendonitis. Both players are healthy and they looked great during Cleveland’s first round sweep of the Pistons. The Hawks are a very good defensive team holding opponents to a league-low 43% field-goal percentage. Atlanta is led by the front court duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford. Millsap had an impressive first round averaging 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game against the Boston Celtics. Atlanta has struggled offensively at times this season, but Millsap and Horford have kept them in games with their rebounding. The Cavs have rebounding machines of their own in Love and Tristan Thompson. Cleveland’s big men must create as many second chance opportunities as possible to keep pressure on the Hawks, which will ultimately led them to victory.

Key Matchup

Atlanta Hawks small forward, Kent Bazemore. Photo Credit-Wikipedia

The matchup to watch for in this series is between LeBron James and Kent Bazemore. Cavalier fans remember Bazemore for his comments after the Hawks went down two games to none in last year’s conference finals. He said, “I still think we’re the better team. We just haven’t shown it yet.” Cavs fans responded accordingly as Bazemore was booed during the next two games at The Q. The Hawks will most likely throw Millsap and Thabo Sefolosha at LeBron during the series, but it will be Bazemore who will start off guarding King James. Bazemore and LeBron have a little bit of history as the young Hawks forward talked trash towards James on Twitter in 2012. One tweet read “LeBron is the equivalent to 7eleven, he doesn’t close.” Bazemore also shoved LeBron during game two of the conference finals. I think this will be a fun matchup to watch given Bazemore’s beef towards James. LeBron hasn’t responded to Bazemore and I doubt he will. King James is a man on a mission and it is pretty hard to get in his head, just ask Detroit’s Stanley Johnson.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James is on track to make some more history during this series. He will tie former Cavaliers coach, Byron Scott for 14th place all-time in playoff games tonight with 183. LeBron needs just three more treys to pass Robert Horry for 8th place in postseason three-pointers.

Bonus Stat

The Cavaliers are undefeated against the Hawks in the postseason. Cleveland swept Atlanta in the 2008-2009 Conference Semi-Finals and the 2014-2015 Eastern Conference Finals.

Prediction

The Cavs will win this series in 5 games. Cleveland is well rested and will continue their dominance of Atlanta, but the Hawks are due to win at least one game. The Cavaliers are clicking at the right time and their strong play will propel them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year.