clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Raptors Look to Cool off Cavaliers in Game 1: Preview, TV Info and More

New, comments

The Toronto Raptors are riding the emotional highs of making franchise history by reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. Now they'll have to get through the red-hot Cleveland Cavaliers to continue the party.

DeMar DeRozan (10) and the Raptors will look to win Game 1 for the first time this post-season
DeMar DeRozan (10) and the Raptors will look to win Game 1 for the first time this post-season
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015-16 Toronto Raptors have done what no other instalment of the franchise has been able to do in its 21-year history: reach the Conference Finals.

While it's certainly an accomplishment, this should have been the goal all along. The Raptors won 56 games in the regular season and finished as the East's second-best team. Getting to this point is every two seed's expectation.

Next up is an opponent with a talent level Toronto has yet to encounter this post-season. The Cleveland Cavaliers have rolled over their competition to this point, sweeping both their early round series. The Raptors won two of the three meetings between these two teams during the regular season, but you can't read too much into that.

Will Kyle Lowry and Co. be able to continue the party in the "6ix," or will they drop yet another opening game? Here are three things to watch for as Game 1 unfolds:

Cavaliers Rust:

Cleveland has enjoyed extended rest since they were able to shoot the Hawks out of the playoffs in a quick and tidy four-game sweep. While that long layoff is certainly nice for players to heal any bumps and bruises they may have accumulated, it could also lead to some rust as guys try to rediscover a shooting rhythm.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey acknowledged that the time off may be a setback for Cleveland early on, but expects the rest to be beneficial as the series wears on.

"You always take rest over rust in the playoffs," Casey said on Monday. "I've never been with a team that's had nine days off. Hopefully they're a little rusty and game-rusty. But sooner or later, that rest is going to kick in and be a plus for them.

"We have to go in with our guns a-blazing, playing hard and playing to our identity, and let the chips fall where they may."

Raptors' Perimeter D:

In Miami, the Raptors were going up against one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league. The Heat only knocked down six triples per game in the regular season at a 33.6 per cent clip, good for 27th in the NBA in both categories. By comparison, Cleveland ranked second in threes made per game and seventh in three-point percentage.

Once the post-season started, the Cavaliers hit a whole new level of long-range proficiency. Through their eight games so far, they've hit nearly 17 treys per contest on a ridiculous 46.2 per cent. With the Cavaliers boasting three-point gunners seemingly everywhere, the Raptors will have to tighten up their perimeter defence. Casey has said Toronto has focused on taking away the paint first and foremost all year long, but the coach admits his team may have to alter its strategy for Round 3. The Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons would agree.

Battle on the Glass:

The Raptors had success against Miami by taking advantage of their small lineups and punishing them on the glass with extra possessions. While the Cavaliers also like to play small, rebounds will be harder to come by with Canadian Tristan Thompson patrolling the paint. Thompson is averaging five offensive boards per game in under 30 minutes of action. Look for him and Bismack Biyombo to duke it out for rebounding supremacy.

Where to watch: 8:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet