Raptors-Cavaliers 3.0 gets going Tuesday night after a pair of mostly lop-sided decisions in favour of the side with LeBron James ousted Toronto in each of the last two post-seasons. By now, Raptors fans are mostly familiar with Cleveland — LeBron James is pretty good, their shooters like to get hot against Toronto, Predatory Loans Arena is a bit of a house of horrors, and Dahtnay Jones is probably lurking at the end of the Cavs bench waiting to dick punch someone in garbage time.
This is, however, a vastly different Cavs team from the one that swept Toronto last year, and even from the one that that suffered murder by bench in the Raptors’ 34-point win back in January. To get acquainted with the round two enemy, we asked Fear the Sword’s Justin Rowan to answer a few questions. (All the less loathsome Cavs writers were busy.)
#1 - Let’s start this off with a question not about stats, or Xs and Os, or analysis, but feelings. After all that happened in the first round, and with the e Cavaliers fans feeling right now?
Relief is probably the biggest feeling. It seemed everything that could go wrong, did go wrong in the first round. The absence of George Hill was really felt by the team, and Kevin Love tearing ligaments in his thumb wasn’t ideal. While their next task is far more daunting, they now have more time to figure things out offensively and will hopefully be a little healthier.
#2 - The Pacers came damned close to pulling off the upset of the Cavs in Round 1. What was the most worrying thing about how the Cavaliers played against Indiana that you fear could carry over to the second round?
The offensive inconsistency is really starting to get to me. Love is clearly not himself physically, and when that’s the case it puts a heavy burden on LeBron James. In addition to that, the supporting cast hasn’t responded well to being relied on, and typically perform a lot better when the Cavs All-Stars are doing the heavy lifting. If Love continues to struggle, I don’t know if you can rely on Rodney Hood, J.R. Smith, or Jordan Clarkson to shoulder the load.
#3 - Sticking with the first round, is there anything Indiana did to give Cleveland problems that you think the Raptors might be able to replicate?
I think the Raptors bench is suited to play the kind of defense that gave Cleveland so much trouble in the first round. They really get into your body and force you out of your rhythm and comfort zone. The Cavs have a familiarity with the way the Raptors starters play, so by mixing the two units throughout the game, I believe Toronto could give Cleveland fits.
#4 - If the answer to #2 wasn’t “LeBron is playing so many high-stress minutes,” are you concerned about LeBron playing so many high-stress minutes? Are there ways in which the Cavs can mitigate how much LeBron has to do? Do they have to?
I definitely believe that these minutes are taking their toll on LeBron. He was cramping up during Game 7 and if it wasn’t for a strong stretch from Love and Hill that could have been enough to cost them the series. Hopefully Hill will remain healthy, as that gives the team someone other than LeBron that can get them into their sets. Beyond that, the Cavs will need to hit some shots, as they were far below their season-long numbers on open looks during the first round.
#5 - Mike Scott just owned the Raptors for seven games. Which Cavalier will inexplicably shoot 70 percent in this series and join Mike Scott, Gerald Henderson and The Chicago Bulls on the list of dumbest Raptors tormentors?
I don’t think it’ll be Jordan Clarkson, as VanVleet really does a great job on him and they should be matched up against each other often. Jose Calderon would certainly be the funniest option, but I’ll go with Rodney Hood.
#6 - What’s your prediction for the series?
The Raptors should win this in 6 games, so I’ll go with my head on that one. Indiana played with nothing to lose and no fear throughout the series. If the Cavs are going to have a shot in this series, the Raptors will need to get in their own heads. But what SHOULD happen is Raptors in 6.