The series between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers has been a blow-out. With Cleveland up two games to none, the series heads back to Toronto for game three (8.30pm ET, Saturday).
If the Raptors hope to have a chance in this series, this is an absolute must-win. Read on for our Game 3 preview with predictions and betting picks.
Is the Series Already Over?
When the Cavaliers destroyed the Raptors in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, it was just one game. But even then, people all around the sports world were starting to call the series in favor of Cleveland. Some however, wanted to wait, citing that the San Antonio Spurs blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first game of their series yet when the dust settled, it was the Thunder advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
But when game two yielded a similar result, with the Cavaliers winning by 19 points (an improvement for the Raptors who lost by 31 in the first game), most were willing to concede the series to Cleveland. Because it’s not just the fact that the team is winning and by such large margins, but how they are winning.
The Cavaliers have rediscovered themselves this postseason and it couldn’t have come at a better time as a finals matchup with either the Thunder or Golden State Warriors likely awaits. Cleveland has played shutdown defense, its players averaging just under 44 rebounds as a team in the playoffs. Additionally, the Cavs have seemed to make every play on defense, shutting off the lanes and keeping Toronto’s beleaguered stars, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, from able to get anything going consistently.
Offensively, Cleveland has been locked in as well. Kyrie Irving is dominating on the dribble drive, forcing opportunities for himself and creating them for his teammates. He leads the team in playoff scoring with 24.8 points per game, including scoring 26 and 27 points apiece in the past two games of this series.
Speaking of a player creating opportunities for his teammates, that would be LeBron James. James, who is averaging 23.5 points in his own right, also leads the team with 7.3 assists per game. Always a threat to shoot and drive with the ball, James’ passing has really been the story of the Cavs’ playoff run. Unselfishly, he has given up his own opportunities or forcing his own opportunities and has instead spread the ball around. Not just to Irving but to Kevin Love (pictured) and JR Smith as well, both of whom are averaging north of 11 points this postseason.
Finally, there is the team’s ball handling. Cleveland has avoided playing fast and loose and as a result the team has not made many careless mistakes with the basketball. They lead all remaining playoff teams with an average of just 11.5 turnovers per game, a number made even lesser in this most recent series.
With the Cavaliers doing everything right and the Raptors not being able to do much of anything, it makes sense why some would be willing to call this series. Given the way Cleveland is playing after all, it doesn’t seem there is much the Raptors or any other team for that matter can do right now to stop them.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors Game 3 Betting Picks’ Predictions
Realistically, I don’t really think anybody thought the Raptors would legitimately be challenging the Cavaliers in this series or at all. During the regular season, the team did play up to Cleveland’s level at times, even challenging them briefly for the top spot in the East. In fact, the Raptors even managed to take two of three from Cleveland during their regular season series.
In the game Toronto lost however, it was by 22 points, a number that sits right about in the middle of the total deficit the team has faced for much of this series. Toronto has remained competitive in the first quarter but afterwards, Cleveland has taken off the brakes and slammed down on the gas pedal.
Lowry and DeRozan have played admirably but without Jonas Valanciunas, it has been an uphill battle. Injured in the Raptors’ second round series, Valanciunas was averaging 15 points and over 12 rebounds per game. His presence on the glass and in the paint would have been vital to forcing Irving and James to not have such easy looks at the basket and at keeping Love at bay on the post.
Overall, injuries are a big part of the reason Toronto is laboring and being completely outmanned, but fatigue is also weighing in. This is a Raptors team that has fought valiantly to get to this point, outlasting first the Indiana Pacers and then the Miami Heat in two grueling series, both of which went the distance. Entering into the clash with the Cavaliers, which was going to pit them as the underdogs anyway, Toronto had already played 14 games compared to just eight for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland has swept their way to this point, winning 10 straight, and with the way the cards seem to be aligning, it would not be surprising to see them return to the NBA Finals. They would be doing so riding a 12-game winning streak.
Entering the series if you had asked me if I thought the Cavs would have swept the Raptors, I would have said no, but given everything that has been on display thus far, even with game three returning to Toronto, it’s really difficult to envision there being any other outcome.
- So, all things considered, this preview’s betting picks’ prediction is to bet on the Cavaliers -5pts on the spread to win game three @ -110 with Betonline Sportsbook. It is -5.5pts with Bovada.
- As for the total game points, it’s set at 198. This seems right on target with how the two teams have been playing. If the Cavaliers continue to dominate offensively, they’ll top 100 yet again, and if their defense remains shutdown, Toronto won’t get past 90. Given the Raptors are at home, I don’t see them getting blown out so badly. If they have one game in them, it might just be this one. So the pick is to take over 198pts @ -110 with either Bovada or BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.