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May 1st, 2017

2017 NBA Playoffs Preview: Cavs vs. Raptors Eastern Conference Semifinals

Griffin Ellams @GriffinEllams
2017 NBA Playoffs

Cavs face off against Raptors in the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs. (Photo by Claus Anderson / Getty Images)

After finding themselves down 2-1 in their previous series against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Raptors won three straight games and look ready to challenge the reigning champions who swept their first round opponent. The Cavs are also coming off of a week’s rest, not having played since April 22, so they’re most likely ready to battle out every minute for this entire series.

This series has potential to be one of the best of the 2017 NBA playoffs. These two teams faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and things got intense as the Cavs ended up winning the series in six games. Both teams have dealt with their fair share of injury but both rosters are healthy as the series tips off on Monday at 7 PM ET on TNT.

In Toronto’s victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, both Lowry and DeRozan had their struggles but DeRozan persevered and stepped his game up whereas Lowry just had a bad series. Lowry averaged 14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game on 44.3% shooting. DeRozan averaged 23.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game on 43.9% shooting. Granted Milwaukee is a better defensive team than Cleveland, these two will still have to step up their games if they want to upset the reigning champs led by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

2017 NBA Playoffs

Can DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry finally lead the Raptors over the Cavs? (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

LeBron shows no signs of struggling nor slowing down. He averaged an outstanding 32.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks per game on 54.3% shooting from the field as well as 45% from behind the arc. The only thing that LeBron has been struggling with is his free throw shooting. He shot 57.9% from the free throw line during this series, making 22/38 attempts. Toronto will definitely be looking to foul him before giving up any easy buckets down the stretch. Unlike LeBron, Kyrie has had some rough games during this Pacers’ series and the fans are craving to see “Playoff Kyrie” back in action. He averaged 25.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game on 41.9% shooting as well as 21.9% shooting from beyond the arc. That is absolutely below him. Cleveland also rallied back from a 26 point 3rd quarter deficit to win Game 3 with Kyrie and Love on the bench for the entire 4th quarter. Cleveland is going to need all the help they can get this series. Toronto is looking for revenge.

This will be an interesting matchup between the two teams. Changes that are looking to be made between both teams are how Toronto’s backcourt needs to step up and be more efficient while Kyrie has to do the same for the Cavs. Cleveland also needs to step up defensively, this has been a big issue for them all season long and it could lead to Lowry getting back into rhythm and DeRozan scoring more efficiently. The Cavs will hope to use their depth to their advantage, although they can’t seem to do anything right with LeBron off the floor. LeBron played 43.7 minutes per game last series and although the benefit of that was getting a week’s rest, it would probably help him going forward if he can play fewer minutes. Kyrie will have to step up as a playmaker while LeBron rests. We can be assured that LeBron will be ready, so this series may come down to defense and guard play. Hopefully, Kyrie and Lowry can get back to their regular forms.

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