LeBron James has owned Raptors but they have defensive options

Dean Simpson
May 2, 2018

The fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers are on the road as they play Game 1 of their best of seven series with the top-seeded Toronto Raptors Tuesday night.

LeBron James propelled the Cavs to victory in Game 7 of their first round series against the Indiana Pacers, and it took every ounce of energy he had. But they've been confident before heading into a playoff showdown with James and have come up short - twice.

Both exhausted teams will get a barometer of where they're at when we tip off on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. He kept Cleveland's unusual season alive - for the time being - but it took everything the 33-year-old and the Cavs had to hold off the Pacers, who came in confident after a 34-point win in Game 6.

LeBron James has been tremendous throughout this series, but hasn't been able to finish off the Pacers yet.

After the smoke cleared from Game 7 of the first-round series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers, LeBron James stood tall amongst all the players on the court.

Yet there was no denying the boost that the Cavaliers, most of all James, received at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a 10-2 spurt that Cleveland assembled without him. "We know the head of the snake is DeRozan & Lowry but those guys off the bench come in with the same attitude & the same confidence as the starters".

With the return of Fred VanVleet the Raptors bench will easily outmatch the Cavs. DeMar is averaging a career-high in points in just 36 MPG, his lowest in the post-season. He had the second-highest-scoring Game 7 ever on Sunday with 45 points.

The Raptors are significantly better on offense than the Indiana Pacers. And if there was any suggestion James is worn out, the Raptors are fully expecting the 33-year-old to be at his best despite logging 41 minutes a game through the first round.

The first round exposed the Cavs' inconsistent offense, nearly non-existent defense, and dependence on LeBron giving all-time-great performances. And it's easy to see why: When Anunoby marked James, the Cavaliers scored 1.09 points per possession. Cleveland was a plus-34 on 3s during the conference semifinals previous year.

Cleveland centre Tristan Thompson, making his first start of the series, delivered a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. This year though no one seem capable to help take the pressure off him. We have to find that extra boost and go out there and fight with him.

LeBron James' streak of seven straight NBA Finals appearances could be coming to an end. Cleveland's defence? Second worst in the league. The Raptors depth greatly outmatches the talent on the Cleveland Cavaliers roster. Cleveland has eliminated Toronto in two straight postseasons, including the 2016 conference finals and a second-round sweep past year.

Especially since Toronto boasted one of the top attacks in the National Basketball Association this season, while Cleveland ranked 29 out of 30 teams defensively.

Cleveland's second unit was a disappointment in the First Round.

But James made his first seven shots of the finale and finished the first half with 26 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Ty Lue strayed away from small-ball, Love-at-center lineups that he rolled out for much of the season, by keeping either Thompson or Larry Nance Jr. on the floor for almost the entire game to provide rebounding and rim-protection.

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