Cavs vs. Raptors: Confernce Semifinals Primer

Wine & Gold Gear Up for Third Straight Postseason Meeting with Raptors
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Managing Editor


Cavs vs. Raptors:
Conference Semifinals Primer

Wine & Gold Gear Up for Third Straight Postseason Meeting with Raptors


There are several ways to look at the Cavaliers’ First Round series against Indiana – probably depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty kind of person.

You could say that the Cavaliers – who’ve rumbled through the First (and Second) Rounds nearly unscathed over the past three postseasons – barely squeaked past a lower-seeded Pacers squad and it took LeBron James’ herculean efforts to do so.

Or, you could say that the upstart Pacers – the only Eastern Conference team with a winning record against Cleveland this year – were a specifically difficult matchup for the Cavaliers and, with them in the rearview mirror, they’ll hit their rhythm against a Raptors team that needed six games to beat the 8th-seeded Wizards.

In their seven-game slugfest against Indiana, the Cavaliers rode the broad shoulders of the game’s greatest player – with LeBron James averaging 45.0 points per over the last three home games of the series after notching a triple-double in the opener. In the First Round, the four-time MVP averaged 34.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists – leading Cleveland in each category.

As far as carrying the load in the series, the King had 161 more total points than the next-highest scorer (Kevin Love – 241/80), six more boards (Love – 71/65) and 43 more assists (Jeff Green 54/11).

The Raptors wrapped up their series with Washington, winning Game 6 this past Friday night in D.C. to advance for a meeting against Cleveland for the third straight season. In 2016, the Cavaliers topped Toronto in six hard-fought matchups to advance to the NBA Finals for the second straight season. Last year, the Wine & Gold swept the Raptors out of the Playoffs, winning their first eight games of the postseason for the second straight year.

But both teams are vastly different than the ones who squared off last spring. And with the Semis set to tip off on Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre, Cavs.com has your Second Round Primer to get you up to speed as they gear up for another run at the Ring …

Kevin Love and Jeff Green battle on the boards with Raptors big man, Jonas Valanciunas.
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images


1. The Raptors used a pre-All-Star push to elevate themselves to the top of the Eastern Conference. And despite getting off to an excellent start against the team that’s ended their season the past two years, the Wine & Gold eventually had the last laugh.

Here’s how the three head-to-head matchups went down this season …

January 11: Catching the Cavs on the end of a road trip, and in the midst of a debilitating mid-season funk, the Raptors dominated Cleveland about as thoroughly as possible – as the Wine & Gold surrendered at least 30 points in all four quarters as Toronto shot an even 50 percent from the floor, canned 18 triples and handed out 31 assists. The Raptors – without Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry – outrebounded the Cavs, 63-35 – 18-9 on the offensive glass, holding LeBron James to just a single assist in the 133-99 drubbing.

March 21: If the Raptors were successful in stopping LeBron from getting his teammates involved in the first meeting of the season, they failed completely in the second – as the four-time MVP set an NBA record, scoring 35 points and handing out 17 assists without committing a single turnover. Toronto tallied 79 points in the first half of that March meeting and led by 15 points at the break, but the Cavaliers closed the third quarter on a 23-9 run and eventually overtook the Raptors to even the season series at The Q.

April 3: The rubber match between these two was nip-and-tuck through the first 16 minutes of action, but the Cavaliers went on a 20-5 run before halftime and never looked back, taking the 112-106 decision in Cleveland. LeBron finished with 27 points while Kevin Love went off for 18 points and 15 boards for his 31st double-double of the season. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 19 points, but the Cavaliers held Toronto to just 44 percent shooting as a team.


2. The Cavaliers and Raptors had never met in the postseason before 2016 – but they’ll now lock horns for the third straight postseason, although this will be the first time Toronto has come in as the higher seed and with homecourt advantage.

Here’s a brief look back on the two previous postseason meetings between these two …

2016: The Wine & Gold won their first 10 games of the postseason – including two home victories over Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals – before they finally met some resistance north of the border for their next two – including a 15-point drubbing in Game 3.

But the Cavaliers returned home to demolish Toronto by nearly 40 points in Game 5 back at The Q and jumped all over the Raptors in Game 6 back at the Air Canada Centre, with Cleveland’s Big Three combining for 83 of Cleveland’s 113 points.

In the series, the Wine & Gold shot 54 percent from the floor and 44 percent from deep in their four wins and crushed the Raptors on the glass – outrebounding them by 40 boards on the series, including a +22 margin in Game 1 and a +21 margin in Game 5.

In Cleveland’s four victories, they beat Toronto by an average of 28.5 points per.

2017: After the Raptors took two at the Air Canada Center the previous season, they offered no such resistance one year ago, as the Wine & Gold swept Toronto out of the Semifinals in four straight.

In that four-game run, the Wine & Gold won by an average margin of 15.3 points while sinking at least 13 three-pointers in all four contests.

Against Toronto, LeBron became the first player in NBA history to score at least 35 in every game of a four-game sweep, averaging 36.0 points on 57 shooting from the floor, 48 percent from long-range and 83 percent from the stripe, adding 8.3 boards, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 block per.


The Raptors topped the 120-point plateau on an Eastern Conference-best 24 occasions this season – including twice against the Cavaliers. Cleveland scored 120+ in 21 games – with their high-water mark in regulation coming in their 132-129 comeback win over the Raptors in late March.

Series Odds and Ends

3. Here are some odds and ends to consider as we tip off on Tuesday night …

* The Raptors have used 12 different starting lineups during the regular season. The Cavaliers went with 30 different lineups – including four in the First Round alone.

* Toronto was the first team to qualify for the Playoffs this season.

* The Raptors topped the 120-point plateau on an Eastern Conference-best 24 occasions this season – including twice against the Cavaliers. Cleveland scored 120+ in 21 games – with their high-water mark in regulation coming in their 132-129 comeback win over the Raptors in late March.

* Toronto’s bench finished 4th in the NBA in scoring at 41.8 points per; the Cavaliers were 7th at 41.2. But it’s been a lopsided advantage for the Raptors, head-to-head. In the three games this season, Toronto’s second unit has outscored Cleveland’s by an average of 59.0-30.0. The biggest reason for the disparity emanates from the January 11 shellacking at the Air Canada Center when Toronto’s bench – led by Fred VanVleet’s 22 – outscored the Cavaliers’, 74-48.

* Cleveland comes into the series with the second-oldest team remaining in the Playoffs, averaging 29.4 years of age. The Raptors are the youngest remaining squad at 25.9.

* The Raptor who holds the all-time assist mark against the Cavaliers with 17 dimes is Jose Calderon.

* The Cavaliers killed Toronto from beyond the arc in the past two Playoff meetings – canning 129 triples to 71 for the Raptors. That gap was even wider last year, with the Cavs up +34 (61-27) over the four-game sweep. The Raptors have turned the tables on Cleveland this season – hitting 10 more threes (44-34) in the three-game set. In the Raptors’ six-game series against Washington, they were +18 from deep.


4. The schedule for the possible seven-game set is as follows …

The Eastern Conference Semifinals tip off on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre 8 p.m. Game 2 is slated for an early start – 6 p.m. – on Thursday night in Toronto.

The series returns to Cleveland for Game 3 on Saturday night (5/5) at 8:30 p.m. followed by Game 4 at the same time on Monday evening (5/7) at The Q.

Game 5 is set for next Wednesday (5/9) in Toronto; Game 6, next Friday (5/11) in Cleveland and, if the series goes the distance, Game 7 will take place next Sunday (5/13) north of the border – all times TBD.


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