This year was supposed to be the year LeBron James’ team finally didn’t win the Eastern Conference. James is now 33-years-old, has the mileage of seven consecutive Finals appearances on his body and the Cleveland Cavaliers team around him is very uninspiring. Other teams looked much more well-rounded.
However, Cleveland has raced out to a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals over the top-seeded Toronto Raptors. The Cavs will attempt to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals with a win in today’s Game 4 (8:30 p.m. ET Monday on TNT).
Toronto will need to do its part to stop James and the Cavaliers. The team’s defense, particularly on James, has not been good, and many of the squad’s role players have not performed to expectations.
Will the Raptors be able to extend the series on the road in Game 4? Let’s examine some key factors in the matchup that could swing the game in both ways, then make some Raptors vs Cavs predictions and picks on the game’s lines with the sportsbooks for USA players.
Will Raptors Make Meaningful Adjustments Against LeBron James?
James might be the best basketball player ever to play the game, and the Raptors have been content to just let him do his thing in this series. James is averaging 35.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 11.3 assists in the first three games, which is more of the same from his masterpiece of a series in the first round against the Indiana Pacers.
The Raptors need to do something to throw James off his game instead of playing him mostly one-on-one with the occasional predictable double team. Toronto head coach Dwane Casey hasn’t been nearly creative enough with his coverage of the best player of the game.
If James is allowed to keep dominating without much resistance, he gets in a rhythm and then starts hitting everything he throws up at the rim. We saw that pattern especially in Game 2, when James shot 19-of-28 from the field.
Can Raptors Make Cavs Uncomfortable When Handling Ball?
The Raptors have averaged 13.7 turnovers per game in this series. That’s a very average number that doesn’t reflect a major issue with their control of the ball. The problem for Toronto is that Cleveland is coughing up the ball only six times per game.
Arguably the Cavs’ biggest weakness as a team is transition defense. LeBron James sometimes doesn’t make the effort of getting back to defend, and his less athletic teammates also do the same. However, Toronto hasn’t played in transition much this series. Cleveland’s defense has actually been pretty solid because it has defended almost exclusively in the half court.
The Raptors’ advantage in this matchup comes with its athleticism and youth. Can they start to use that in Game 4 by hassling ball handlers more, so they can get more chances at points in transition?
Has Kevin Love Truly Broken Out of His Slump?
The Cavaliers’ first-round series win over the Pacers was all about LeBron. None of the Cavaliers around him really showed up, but James’ performance was enough to drag the team to a series victory.
In the second round, James has still been easily the best player on either team. Now, though, he’s getting a bunch of help from his second star, Kevin Love. Love has put up 26 points and 13.5 rebounds per contest on 51.4 percent shooting in his last two games, compared to 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds on 31.9 percent shooting in his first eight playoff contests.
The Raptors are still a dangerous team, despite what has happened so far in this series. The Cavs will have a tough time winning in Game 4 if Love regresses back to his level of play from the first round and Game 1 of this series.
Our Preview’s Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers Game 4 Betting Picks & Predictions
The desperation factor will be big here. Despite what we’ve seen thus far this season and past playoff series between these squads, the Raptors are a well-rounded team. I think they’ll have a slightly better plan for LeBron James and pull out a victory here to extend the series at least one more game.
Keep in mind that six of Cleveland’s seven playoff wins this season have come by four points or fewer. Even if the Cavs do win, it’s not likely to be by very many points and we have borne that in mind with our Raptors vs Cavs Game 4 predictions and picks:
- You will find that Cleveland is a 5.5 or 6-point favorite with the online sportsbooks, which I think is too much in favor of the Cavs. This preview advises betting on the Raptors +6pts @ best odds of -110 with Bookmaker.
- I think Toronto’s defense will make some adjustments, and that Cleveland won’t be nearly as comfortable on offense as it has been at many points in this series. Bet the under 214pts @ -110, also with Bookmaker. Other firms have the total points to be scored in this Game 4 at slightly lower.