The 2nd curve ball of the playoffs was definitely the Raptors defeating the Heat. Many had the Heat winning, including myself, due to the struggles the Raptors had against Indiana and all of their playoff experiences in the past 3 years. They keep proving the doubters wrong. Now they face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the overwhelming favorites to represent the East since the season started. Most of that perception has still not changed. The Raptors have a lot to prove to the world despite winning the season series 2-1 this year against Cleveland.
The Cavs are a completely different team this post season and they have shown it through pure dominance. They destroyed the Atlanta Hawks who have been one of the best defensive team in the league with a consistent barrage of 3s over the course of 4 games. It is hard to imagine if Cleveland can keep that up, but if they did this would be another sweep over the Raptors, because it is impossible to beat a team that hot from 3 when you do not have many knockdown shooters yourself.
Kyrie Irving has been on a tear and Lowry has to find a way to slow him down. If Kyrie gets going along with LeBron doing his normal stuff he does all the time, along with Derozan playing consistently bad I do not see things going their way. Derozan has been abysmal during this entire post season and reminding me why he irks me so much. Settles for the worst shots in basketball, shooting many long 2s. He shoots 18% from 3, 38% anywhere past 10 feet, and shooting an average of 13 feet on his jumpers so far this post season. He plays like he is Kobe, but not prime great Kobe, more like washed 37 year old 20 year vet Kobe. He could be the reason the Raptors fail in late game situations, because more times than not, at the end of ball games he makes the wrong decision that ultimately leads his team to a loss.
The positives of the Raptors is that they are able to match Cleveland’s deadly lineup this postseason of Irving-Smith-James-Love-Thompson with their own lineup of Lowry-Derozan-Carroll-Patterson-Biyombo. Patterson is important to the team’s spacing as he is a reliable 3 point shooter which is essentially all Love has been so far this year in the playoffs. Many might be wondering why I am saying Biyombo over Valanciunas, but that is mainly because the Raptors have failed to use Valanciunas correctly for the majority of the year and Biyombo is just a better fit. Valanciunas has cinder blocks for feet, and just does not know where to be on defense most of the time. Biyombo is pretty much the opposite of him. Biyombo can run the floor, protect the rim, and does not need touches on offense to be effective. It simply just makes more sense especially in this series for Biyombo to receive more minutes and plus we still have no word on Valanciunas’s injury. There is no way of knowing he would play at the level he had done so far in the playoffs or if Casey would trust him enough to get him more touches.
J.R. Smith can be either really good or really bad. He has not had the explosive haywire game of messing everything up so far and it is bound to happen at some point. If I was a Cavs fan I would hope it is sooner than later, but J.R. is always a wild card and it is hard to predict what he will do in any given game. He could hit 10 threes one game and shoot 1-19 in another and nobody would be surprised by either one.
Lowry struggled early on in the playoffs but over the last 3 games has found his groove averaging 32 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and doing so on an efficient 57.8% true shooting. He had a game earlier in the year against Cleveland with 43 points and scoring most of his points while being guarded by Iman Shumpert, so he most definitely has the ability to play big in this series. If he can keep this type of play up the Raptors will not be an easy out, and give the Cavs way more hell than anyone expected. Below you will see the game winner he hit over them in that 43 point game.
The Raptors have had a tremendous season and win or lose this was a successful season for them. That being said the Cavs have been on a mission, have loads of rest time, and just too much star power. I hope to see Love play a bigger part in these games than he has so far been a glorified Ryan Anderson. I have the Cavs winning in 4, because I believe if given the chance Casey will give Valanciunas more minutes than he should, and Demar Derozan cannot be trusted as the 1st or 2nd option for buckets on your team. The Cavs are on a mission and have a ton of rest so sorry to the Raptor fans, you have had a helluva run, but the Cavs are just on another level.