First of all I must say how I was impressed by Cavaliers game in first round, they were simply outstanding. Especially in Game 3 when they bounce back after Pacers took lead of 26 points. James alone with second unit was arhitect of that comeback, and that just showing how good second unit of Cleveland is, or better to say how good second unit gel with James when other two "stars" Love and Irving are on bench. Cavaliers swept Pacers in first round, easy 4-0 and they are well rested for this series. Starting line up for this series against Raptors will be same one like against Pacers, Irving and Smith on guards positions, James at small forward (but he is playing better than Irving as point guard), Love at power forward with Thompson on center position.
Absolut best player in Cavs team in series against Pacers was James, neither one other players wasn't even close to him, I don't say that because he averaged 32.8 points per game or 8.7 assits per game, but simply with him on court Cleveland looking much better, they have much more confidance and everything looking so good that opponents don't have chance against them. Second best player was Irving, mostly because of his scoring abilities, he averaged 25.3 points per game with only 3 assists per game (don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against Irving, but point guard must be able to make plays for others not just for himself), third best player (maybe even second best in team, because of his outstading defensive abilities) was Love with 15.5 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. In starting line-up probably worst player is Smith, on a good night he is able to score 30 pts, problems is that he has good nights twice over whole season, so basicly he is nothing special, he posses solid shot from behind the arc, but other parts of his game are simply terrible, on defense he making too much fouls, on offense inside the arc he missing a lot of open shots and all in all, just mediocre player, last player in starting line is Thomspon, player which doing everything on court something similar to James, he is best defender on this roster, great rebounder on offensive and defensive end and a lot of time he knows to find open man on three point line for bounce pass, so all in all, without him Cavs will not be the same team. Since start of the season, Cavs improved rotation, because second unit on start of the season was abysmal, I mean maybe Felder is hot prospect but at the moment he doesn't deserve to play in NBA or Liggins (they traded him), instead of these two they signed Deron Williams, couple of season ago Williams was even better than Irving and at the moment he is doing great job with secon unit, he is good finisher, good shooter, know how to find open man and he is very reliable from free throw line, Shumpert is another good shooter, together with Korver these two split minutes on small forward and shooting guard positions, offensivly Korver is much better, but defensivly Shumper doing great job in stoping opponents best scorers. With Jefferson and Frye, Cavs have two more great shooters from distance and Frye showed that he knows how to play on center postion as well, he provides a lot of offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities for Cavs. In this series, second unit of Cavs can make real difference.
Raptors coming into this series after they won series against Bucks, 4-2 and they had a lot of problems to make that happend. Looks like they also have Oklahoma sindrom, but in their case DeRozan playing role which Westbrook playing in OKC. When they don't know what to do in offense they give ball to DeRozan and often in these kind of situations even DeRozan doesn't know what to do, so Raptors in all six games against Bucks had big scoreless streaks (4-5 minutes without points) and in this series even one small scoreless streak will mean that Cavs will take that game. All in all, I am far from impressed how they won against Bucks and I believe that more chances against Cavs will have Bucks than this Raptors team. Raptors starting line up in this series will be the same like in previous one, Lowry at point guard position, DeRozan as shooting guard, Carroll on small forward, Ibaka at power forward and Valanciunas in paint.
As I said, DeRozan was the best player overall against Bucks, he averaged 23.5 points per game with 5.5 rebounds per game (that was little bit strange, but he really protect defensive rebounds), Lowry shined from time to time but from second best player everyone expect much more than 14.3 points per game and 5.2 assits per game, I will say that instead of Lowry, second best in Raptors team was Ibaka with 12.3 points per game with 8.3 rebounds per game and amazing 2.3 block per game, so at least on defensive end he was doing much better job than Lowry. Carroll was somekind defensive specialist, he was in charge for Giannis and he was awful, he had huge luck that Giannis still isn't good three point shooter, but whay Giannis was able to do to Carroll is funny, number of times he simply dunk over him, like he doesn't even exist. What Valanciunas doing on court I think even coach Casey doesn't know, yes Valanciunas shined in last game, but still he is far away from last season and looks like every time when Lowry and Valanciunas start to play pick&roll opposing defense read that much better than any other play. Second unit probably win series against Bucks, led by Powel, Jospeh (from time to time) and Tucker, Tucker was able to hit some crucial shots in all six games, on other side looks like Power alone won sixth game against Bucks, so this second unit promised a lot, we will see how they will act in match-up against Cleveland.
Irving agaisnt Lowry: Irving has advantage in this one, he is much better in creating space to score by himself than Lowry, also on defensive end he is much better than Lowry, in games against Pacers so many times exactly his defensive effort force Teague to make silly turnovers, and Irving is better shooter from behind the arc, and better in drawing fouls and plus one on driving lay-ups, only aspect where Lowry is better is assits per game, because Lowry much more trying to find open man. All in all, Irving should win this match-up.
Smith against DeRozan: I already wrote a lot about Smith's abilities (or better to say non-abilities) I doubt he will see a lot of minutes against DeRozan, at first place he can not handle DeRozan on defensive end, he will make a lot of silly fouls and I doubt he will see more than 20 minutes per game in this series. Probably Shumpert will step up instead of him on defensive end, and I think coach Lue will sacrifice that position offensivly in order to say fresh on defense.
James against Carroll: I will just smile on this match-up. No way in hell that Carroll (who suppous to be elite defender) will stop James, I doubt he will be able to even slow him down, in every aspect of the game James is better, better shooter, better finisher, stronger, faster, outstanding ability to run offense as point guard, so simply Carroll has no chances here, Raptors even said during regular season, when they aquired Tucker from Suns, that he bring him in because he needed him to play defense on James in play-off. So probably Tucker will see increased minutes against James (something similar like Shumpert and Smith against DeRozan).
Love against Ibaka: This will be most interesting match-up. Love is slightly better shooter from behind the arc than Ibaka, but Ibaka is also able to score from there. Ibaka is elite shot blocker inside the paint, but Love doesn't rely that much on game inside, of course he is one of the best offensive rebounder but in that case he finishing quickly and defenders has no chance to block him. Love on other side will have more success in defending him, because despite the fact that he is good from outside, his game is inside paint, so Love should take advantage from that.
Thompson against Valanciunas: These two should be even, but so far Thompson showed much more than Valanciunas did. Valanciunas faced Monroe, who is similar type of player like Thompson (Monroe is much better scorer of course) but Thompson task is defense and he can handle Valanciunas in that part, on other side Valanciunas will have huge troubles to keep Thompson outside paint and offensive rebounds, so I will call this as tie.
2nd unit against 2nd unit: As I said, second unit of Cleveland run by James is for a class better than second unit of Raptors. Simply all five players in second unit are deadly shooters, while Williams and James are really good finisher on driving lay-ups, another important thing is that Cavs 2nd unit has Frye to cover center spot, on other side Patterson clearly can not match with him in paint, so that missmatch could be the key for minutes when starters are resting.
PREDICTION: I lot of people speak about these two teams to face in conference finals, but in my opinion, Raptors are still far away to be in mix for title on East. I am absolutly sure that Cavs will win series, and I believe they will do that same against Pacers 4-0, so backing Cavs to cover even double digits handicap at home is good bet, on other side on road they should be able to cover 6-7 pts handicap. About betting on points, if line set on 206 or 207 pts betting on over is always good, anything over that line is risky play, overall betting on over in Cleveland games is a good thing, they playing with only one true center and run offense with smaller line-up most of the time, so opponents must answer on same way. About player peformances, James points is always good bet together with assists and rebounds, he is always close to triple double, Love rebounds and Irving points for this serise are also two other good bets on Cavs players. On other side DeRozan over points are good bet and maybe Ibaka, but with Ibaka you should wait to see how his approach will be in first game and after that decide will you take or not.
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