The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors start their second round series on Monday night (7pm ET on TNT) and here we preview the series with predictions and betting picks.
Rest versus rust. That’s one of the storylines which will be on display as the Cavs, fresh off a sweep of the Indiana Pacers, host the Raptors, who needed six games to top the Milwaukee Bucks.
The two teams meet for a spot in the conference finals on the line. If the Cavaliers win, it will be their fourth consecutive trip to the conference finals, all of which have happened since LeBron James returned to the team in 2014. The Raptors meanwhile, are looking for their second consecutive finals appearance, after losing last year to the Cavaliers in six games.
These two teams met four times during the regular season with Cleveland taking three out of the four. All three of Cleveland’s wins were decided by less than five points however. Toronto’s lone win came by a 98-83 (15 point) final score. It should be noted however that James, Kyrie Irving and others, were rested in this final game of the season series. That won’t be the case on Monday or any of the other games throughout this second round playoff series.
Despite not winning a single game by more than six points against the Indiana Pacers in the first round, the Cavaliers were still the dominant force. Cleveland showed that they and not the top-seeded Boston Celtics (who needed six games to advance), were still the team to beat in the conference.
Cleveland outplayed the Pacers thanks to a strong offensive team effort that saw James and Irving, the Cavaliers two top gunslingers, combining for over 65 points per game. In fact, James almost averaged a triple-double, adding nine assists and 9.8 rebounds per game to his already impressive first round line. Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson all contributed as well.
Defense however, continues to be the biggest area of concern for the Cavaliers. Cleveland allowed the Pacers to score an average of over 108 points per game, the third highest in the league during the first round of the playoffs. Indiana also shot over 46 percent from the floor, good enough for sixth best, and just over 39 percent from three point range, which was fifth best. Cleveland’s defensive rating was 111, which was fourth worst of all playoff teams. That’s not typically the rating you like to see especially when it comes off a sweep.
That’s not to say Toronto shot particularly well because they didn’t. The Raptors scored an average of just under 94 points per game and its likely they won their first round series because the only one of the 16 teams who scored less, were their opponents, the Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto’s field goal percentage was also second worst, at just under 44 percent.
Offensively, playing the way they did, the Raptors aren’t in position to take advantage of Cleveland’s defensive woes. They will need to get more production out of Kyle Lowry (14.3 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.2 RPG), who historically has been a much worse postseason player than his regular season stats would indicate. But it’s not just Lowry as the entire Raptors offense will have to contribute at a higher rate if the team is to defeat the Cavaliers. DeMar DeRozan has been carrying the load, averaging 23.5 points, but he won’t be able to do it alone, especially not against Cleveland.
Even then however, there are no guarantees. With the way James has been playing, not even a near perfect effort from the Raptors could be enough for this team to silence their demons and make it to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.
This Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors Game 1 & Series Betting Predictions & Picks
These teams are no stranger to each other as they met last year in the Eastern Conference Finals and have spent the past several years as two of the best in the conference. Last year Cleveland needed six games to get past Toronto and into the NBA Finals, winning all three games at the Quicken Loans Arena by almost 30 points a game. Toronto managed to win their first two games at home in a series that was tied before the pivotal fifth game. At that point the Cavaliers overtook the Raptors with their superior talent and depth.
It could be the exact same storyline this year. The Cavaliers are just too good and even though Toronto made adjustments and brought in players like Serge Ibaka to close the gap a bit, they still aren’t there yet. The Raptors will manage to grab a game at home and avoid the sweep. Even if they can slow the Cavs offensive attack, they won’t stop it. So here are the Game 1 and series predictions and betting picks:
- The Cavaliers are 6.5pts or 7pts favorite for Game 1 depending which of the offshore bookies you check, a game they should be able to win handedly. Expect a little bit of rust from the long layover but in the end pick Cleveland -6.5pts @ -110 with MyBookie to cover the spread.
- As for the series prediction, take the Cavaliers to win in five, which is +220 odds with BetOnline but just +180 with MyBookie.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & 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.