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We meet again: Cavs, Raptors back together in postseason

01 May 2017

During Cleveland's opening-round sweep of Indiana, Lue was getting carved for his management of James, who played an average of 44 minutes versus the Pacers, this after coming off a regular season in which James averaged a league-high 37.8 minutes.

LeBron makes the Cavaliers favourites in the series, even though they won the same number of games as the Raptors, because he's the world's best. The Raptors were better late, closing at 18-7 to the Cavs' 12-15 after the All-Star break. The Cavs have been talking about shoring up their defense for several months now. "And he made like eight or nine of them in a row, like fadeaways", Tucker said, with a head shake.

Will Toronto have an answer for LeBron James this time around?

James' finest game of the most recent series against Indiana - Game 3, a triple double with 41 points - was on the road. He was also never particularly concerned about the Raptors. Despite the two all-stars riding the pine, Cleveland outscored IN by 18 IN the game.

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If the Toronto Raptors wanted to reach the first NBA Finals in franchise history, there was really no chance they were ever going to avoid LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at some point in these Eastern Conference playoffs.

If James truly does feel worse when he's sitting on the sidelines, well, good thing that he can basically determine the amount of time he is on the floor, especially in the playoffs.

Not to be defined exclusively by Lowry and DeRozan, and keen to improve on last season's historic playoff run, the Raptors made a big defensive upgrade at February's trade deadline, acquiring Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. Both teams took meandering paths to this point but a rematch from last year's conference finals is a meeting of two teams that are each more than capable of making it all the way and having a little fun while doing so. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan struggled from the field in that series and most of the 2016 postseason. The Cavaliers nearly look like they took a step back while the Raptors seem like they took a step forward. I don't think you wake up dreaming 'We gotta make every move to beat Cleveland.' But to play playoff basketball, you have to have guys like that. In 50 career postseason games, Lowry is shooting 38.8 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from beyond the arc, down from his career regular season numbers, where he's a 42.4 percent shooter from the field and 36.4 percent from three.

The Cavs have toughness and defensive versatility in Richard Jefferson and Iman Shumpert, holdovers from last year's championship team who, on occasion, can light it up on the perimeter. Casey and his players believe they're better prepared for the hostile environment that awaits them. In their six-game loss to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors had an assist ratio of 14.0, right around their isolationist average. That is a lot of points given up but fortunately for the Raptors, they are second in these playoffs in their defensive rating with 100.7. This series will be different. The Celtics actually lost their first two games to the Chicago Bulls, which hinted at an upset until Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo fractured his thumb and tore a ligament in his wrist in Game 2. The Raptors get beat up a lot for playing too much hero ball while teams like San Antonio and Atlanta run more collective and pass-frequent offences, but there are still star players who score a lot of unassisted baskets. Tucker - to deal with the problems the Cavaliers present.

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Point spread: The Cavaliers opened as 6.5-point favorites; the total is at 208.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. J.R. Smith, Channing Frye and Kyle Korver are all capable of swinging a game in Cleveland's favor.

Last year, they met in the conference finals.

The big question here for Toronto is what to do with guard Norman Powell.

"It's just on us to put it together consistently", he said.

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