2018 Playoffs: Game 1 Preview - Raptors vs. Cavaliers

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0) @ Toronto Raptors (0-0)

When: Tuesday, May 1, 8 P.M. ET

Where: Air Canada Centre

Broadcast info: TNT, TSN, TSN1050

LAST MEETING

The Raptors were 1-2 against the Cavaliers in three meetings during the regular season. In their only meeting at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto dominated from beginning to end, defeating Cleveland 133-99 behind an 18-for-42 performance from beyond the arc. The remaining two games in Cleveland — both Cavs victories — were much closer. On Mar. 21, Cleveland defeated Toronto 132-129, thanks to a 35-point, 17-assist performance from LeBron James. On Apr. 3, the Cavs earned a 112-106 decision with James again leading the way, scoring 27 points, while Kevin Love added 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Jose Calderon added 19 points.

 

LEADING INTO TONIGHT'S GAME

Injury report: The injury report is currently clear for both teams.

Familiar foe: This is the third consecutive year that the Raptors will face the Cavaliers in the postseason. During the 2016 playoffs, the Cavaliers defeated Toronto 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Last season, Cleveland completed a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Cavaliers have been to the Finals for the past three seasons, with James led-teams (Miami and Cleveland) having made it there for the previous seven consecutive seasons.

Home court: The Raptors enter this series 3-0 at home this postseason. This continues the success the team saw on its home floor during the regular season where the Raptors finished 34-7, an NBA-best. In three meetings with the Cavaliers in the postseason, this will be the first time Toronto starts the series on its home floor as the higher seed. "All year, you fight to be No. 1 for that home court advantage," DeMar DeRozan said.

 

EXTRA ASSISTS

Points on the board: DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors offensively in the first round, averaging a career-high 28.8 points against the Washington Wizards. He also set a new postseason career-high for points in a game, scoring 37 points in Toronto's Game 2 victory. He enters this series already holding the record for most 30-point games in the postseason in franchise history (13).

OG ready: Though the Raptors will be using multiple defenders on LeBron James, rookie OG Anunoby will get his opportunity to try to slow the four-time MVP. In Toronto's first-round series against the Wizards, Anunoby started every game, and showed zero sign of postseason nerves. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey expects that calm to continue into the semifinals. "He's a mature young man," Casey said. "I don't think he's going to get rattled as far as the moment. In the first series against Washington, he did not get rattled. He was cool and under control in what he did. His thought process, he had attention to detail. He made mistakes, but for the most part his attention to detail was like a veteran player. That's the only thing you can ask for from a young player."

Bench mob mindset: Though DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, the three longest-tenure Raptors, led the way in Round 1 against the Wizards, Toronto's bench figures to factor prominently in the second round. In the regular season, the bench mob finished fourth in the league, averaging 41.8 points per game. Though production dipped in Round 1 as Fred VanVleet missed four of six games (and appeared in just three minutes of Game 2 with a sore shoulder), his return in a close-out Game 6 performance coincided with the bench having its strongest showing of the season.

VanVleet credited Indiana for how hard they played against the Cavs in their seven-game first round series. He also praised James, before sharing his mindset, when it comes to facing one of the best players in the league. "I respect the guy a lot, the type of player he is, obviously, the person is," VanVleet said. "But for me, the most respect I can give him is to not give him any respect, in terms of going out there and just trying to challenge him and take him down, and that's our job, and that's what we need to do this week."

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