We basketball writers like our statistics. The bevy of numbers and percentages and Synergy sports stuff at our disposal these days is truly remarkable, and helps inform some of the best sports journalism. There are still old school ideas outside of analytics, though. Like the idea that a playoff team can be "rusty".
The Cleveland Cavaliers have played eight basketball games in the last 31 calendar days. This is essentially a football team's amount of work, minus the brain-destroying hits and brutal body punishment. They swept the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and they feel (along with the rest of North America) that they are good enough to sweep the Eastern Conference Finals against the Raptors as well.
Numbers may tell that story, but to borrow a phrase you've seen in countless places over the last 50 hours, "you have to play the games". The opportunity for the Toronto Raptors, who haven't had more than a day off since April 26, to capitalize on stats-less measures like "momentum" and "readiness" is there for the taking. It'll be up to Kyle Lowry to keep up his immortal play. It'll be up to DeMar DeRozan to make shots at an effective clip, and understand his limitations. It'll be up to everyone else to fill their role cards, including DeMarre Carroll, who will guard (sorry, Steph) the best player in the world.
If the Raptors are going to win this series, they need to take one of these first two in Cleveland and hope the Cavaliers are rusty. You have to believe that rust is a thing.
Yes, the numbers -- most all of them -- tell us that the Cavaliers are going to win this series and win it easily. The stuff you can't quantify? That may just break the Raptors way, and it starts tonight in Game 1.