Which teams do you have making the Eastern Conference Finals this season? The most likely scenario is the 55-21 Toronto Raptors facing off against the 47-30 Cleveland Cavaliers. Those two squads will meet in Cleveland today in what should be a thrilling matchup (7 p.m. ET Tuesday).
Toronto has had an amazing season, but it has lost four of its last seven games due to a slumping defense. The Raptors and their balanced roster could really use a big road win today to regain some momentum.
Cleveland has overcome a rough middle of the season to win nine of its last 11 games. The Cavs’ defense, though, has been pretty poor all year, and the squad depends a lot on its offensive firepower to win every night.
Both teams have an excellent chance to win this important game. But who will do so? We will first identify the main elements that could swing the result before settling on our betting picks and Raptors vs Cavs predictions, which will be dependent on the online betting from the USA sportsbooks.
How Will Cavaliers Survive Non-LeBron James Minutes?
When comparing the Cavaliers and Raptors, it is clear that Toronto has an advantage on the bench. Cleveland has a decent bench, with guys like Tristan Thompson, Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Smith and J.R. Smith.
However, Toronto’s reserves have been at the top in the league all year long. The bench has been building chemistry as a unit for a while, unlike the Cavs, who have done a lot of tweaking due to injuries and trades.
When LeBron’s superstar impact is off the floor, the Cavs will likely be facing the Raptors’ energetic bench unit a lot of the time. Cleveland’s bench is an older group that sometimes cuts corners in terms of effort, while Toronto’s guys off the bench are pretty much the opposite of that. The Cavs’ role players really need to step up in order for the team to win this game.
Can Raptors Regain Focus on Defense?
Toronto still sports the seventh-best defense in the NBA, which is quite good. However, over the last seven games, the Raptors’ defense ranks second-worst in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions (113.5). The Raptors have hardly had any injuries in that stretch, either, so the dropoff is a bit confusing.
It seems that maybe the Raptors have taken their foot off the gas pedal a bit now that they are favored to earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. However, the Boston Celtics have crept to within two games of Toronto and the Raptors are no guarantee to earn home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Cleveland’s offense is hot right now and it hung 132 points on the Raptors less than two weeks ago. Toronto needs to get back to its normal level of defensive effort in this contest so it doesn’t lose ground in the standings and set itself up poorly for the playoffs.
Will Cavs Match Up Well At the Point Guard Position?
George Hill is the starting point guard for the Cavs, but he may or may not play in this game due to a left ankle sprain.
The Raptors’ best player might be point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry is both a knockdown three-point shooter and physical defender. If Hill is limited at all, Cleveland will be majorly behind the eight ball at the point guard spot.
Cleveland’s other options at point guard are Jordan Clarkson, who is more of a shooting guard, and Jose Calderon, who is very efficient on offense but is quite limited athletically and on defense. Lowry has a major advantage against both players.
However, unexpected things happen in individual matchups in basically all NBA games. We will see if the likes of Hill, Clarkson and Calderon can stay competitive against Lowry.
Our Preview’s Toronto Raptors vs Cavs Betting Picks & Predictions
I think the Raptors’ recent issues are more effort-based than them actually falling back to Earth. Also, after a poor showing versus the Cavs on March 21 and with their grip on the No. 1 seed loosening, the team will be extra motivated here.
Expect Toronto’s energy to be the deciding factor in this close Raptors win, plus the potential absence of George Hill could play a role. These are the Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers predictions and picks for this betting preview:
- The Cavs are actually the slight favorite of 1 or 1.5 points depending on which of the sportsbooks you look at, so the Raptors are naturally the recommended pick here. Find your best odds of Raptors +1.5 @ -110 with 5Dimes or BetOnline.
- These two teams combined for 261 points in a non-overtime game the last time they met. It’s unreasonable to predict another total like that, but something around 230 points is very possible with both of these teams specializing in offense and struggling on defense recently. Go with the over 223 @ -115 with Bookmaker.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.