Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend free of Raptor-related stress, because next week is full of LeBron-induced destruction.
With the Raptors vs. Cavaliers kicking off tomorrow, we thought who better to bring along than someone from SB Nation’s Cavs blog, Fear The Sword. As a Cavs fan living in Canada, Justin Rowan has a pretty good handle of the ins and outs of both teams, so shout out to him for helping us out here.
Q: Given that the Cavs have made the Finals two straight years, there has been a lot of talk about flipping switches. Having watched the Cavs dispatch the Pacers in four close games, have they hit top gear?
They haven't hit top gear and still probably have some work to do. They had a 123.2 DRTG in the first half of games against the Pacers and 98.7 in the second half. Heading into this series, there's still a lack of consistency on both ends of the floor.
Q: Kyrie Irving quietly had a career year that got lost amid all the amazing individual seasons this year. You recently wrote about Kyrie and Kevin Love needing to be better this series. How optimistic are you that they’ll come around and what can the Cavs do to unlock them?
Irving stepped up his defense in a big way in the first round. However, his shot simply wasn't falling as he went 1-19 on open threes in the series. He's been dealing with knee tendinitis, so while he still averaged over 25ppg, the 42 percent from the field needs to improve. For Love, he hasn't quite found consistency in his offensive game following knee surgery. Both are getting good looks, it's just a matter of them hitting shots. Maybe the week off before this series will help them.
Q: Every year, there’s talk of player x or player y tasked with being the LeBron James stopper. This season, that responsibility falls on the lap of PJ Tucker. Are you worried at all about his ability to slow down LeBron?
Tucker has been better than expected for the Raptors. While they will give up a bit offensively on the court, overall I think he can do a better job on LeBron than any player they've had in the past. However Tucker hasn't been a player LeBron has struggled with before. He shot 68.4 percent from the floor while Tucker was on the court in their two meetings this season and still has a considerable advantage in height and speed. So I'm not too concerned.
Q: The Cavs have spent most of the season without a true backup Center. Tristan Thompson was starting to look worn out towards the end of season. How confident are you that he’ll be at peak form and how do you think the Cavs deal with a low-post bruiser like Jonas Valanciunas doing damage against smaller or weaker Cs?
Thompson really had worn down over the last month or so of the season. While his thumb injury was unfortunate, it did give him a week off to close out the season and he was fantastic against the Pacers. With another week off before this series, I anticipate him being in fine form. Valanciunas should be able to score against Frye or other small lineups for the Cavs, but may struggle defending the three point line on the other end.
Q: What individual matchups and 5-man lineups that the Raptors have worry you the most?
The DeRozan/Smith matchup is concerning, especially with Smith dealing with a hamstring injury. In terms of 5-man lineups, I think Lowry, DeRozan, Tucker, Patterson, and Ibaka will be the Raptors most effective lineup in this series.
Again, big thanks to Justin for taking the time and be sure to follow him on Twitter, @cavsanada