The second round of the NBA playoffs is officially underway. On Monday night, the Boston Celtics defeated the Philadelphia 76ers with a score of 117-101, and the Golden State warriors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 123-101. Tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers will take on the Toronto Raptors in game one of their semifinal series. This season, both teams have proved that they deserve to be in the playoffs, but the Raptors ended the regular season with a better record, finishing with a 59-23 record, and winning the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers ended their season in 4th place in the conference, with a record of 50-32.
This season, the biggest strength for Toronto has been their defense. This has been the reason they won their conference this regular season, and why they have done so well in the playoffs thus far. Last season, they ranked 8th in defensive rating and 4th in steals. They also dominated in transition defense, ranking 7th in lowest opponent points off turnovers. For this team, passing is going to be the biggest factor that could potentially set them back against a strong Cavaliers team, supported by Lebron James. This was predicted in the off season, but they have really struggled to complete clean passes this year. The Cavaliers have some anxious players that wont hesitate to jump on balls that are left untouched. Key players for the Toronto Raptors include Demar DeRozan, who leads the team in points with 26.7 per game, Jonas Valanciunas, who leads the team in rebounds with 9.3 per game, and Kyle Lowry, who averages 8.3 assists per game, which is the most on the team.
The Cavs will really need to play off of their strengths if they want to win this series. On the opposite end of the spectrum as the biggest strength for Toronto, Cleveland has a very dangerous offense. Players like Lebron James and Kevin Love average numerous points per game. This year, Lebron’s season average was 34.4 points per game, and Kevin Love’s was 11.4. Season after season, Cleveland proves themselves as one of the best offensive teams in all of the NBA, as they typically have high-scoring games. With Kyrie Irving added to this already dangerous lineup, the team has been unstoppable. If both of these teams utilize their strengths to the best of their ability, this should prove to be a competitive series.
Be sure to catch every game of this series, because it should certainly be one you will not want to miss.