The Eastern Conference Finals are here! The Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Toronto Raptors for game 1. The Raptors won the season series 2-1. Despite this fact, it was a different Cavaliers team every game. Cleveland was missing Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova and was being coached by David Blatt in the first match up. In the rematch, David Blatt was still the coach and Irving was playing his sixth game since returning from injury. We had a fully healthy team in the third game with the addition of Channing Frye and Tyronn Lue leading the way. Not to mention, this is a Cavalier team that is finding their swagger in the playoffs. If Cleveland plans to take game 1, they should focus on these areas.
Cut off the Head aka Stop Kyle Lowry
In three regular season matchups, the point guard averaged 31 ppg and 8.3 apg while shooting 66% from the field and 43.7% from three. Lowry is clearly Toronto’s top threat and must be contained. He is their Batman to DeMar DeRozen’s Robin. Irving will have a full plate as he is most likely tasked with guarding Lowry. He has to do a better job than in the final regular season match up when he allowed the point guard to score a career high 43 points. If Cleveland stops Lowry’s big play potential, then the rest of the team is forced to step up and beat them.
Feed the Beast aka Kevin Love
Look, LeBron James and Irving will get their looks, but their penetration threat opens up Love on the outside. K Love has turned it up in the playoffs and has registered a double-double in all eight playoff games to prove it. The forward has improved his regular season numbers to 17.3 ppg and 10.7 rpg and shooting 44% from downtown in the postseason. Coach Lue wants to feed him and even told the forward to play with more hunger and Love has responded. Getting Love involved is a crucial part to Cleveland’s success.
Playoff Experience and Rest
I believe both of these factors hold more importance than expected. LeBron and company have been here before while the Toronto Raptors franchise has never been to a conference finals. Going into this series, Toronto maybe be more battle tested, but that may be their weakness. They have played 14 games to Cleveland’s eight this postseason. The Cavs had a nine day break before the Eastern Conference Finals and even an eight day break between their first and second round series. They are fully healthy and ready to go. Meanwhile, Toronto just ended a series with Miami on Sunday and only one day between their first two series. The Raptors are a little banged up as Jonas Valanciunas has been ruled out for game 1.