LeBron James is set to make his 6th appearance in a row in the Eastern Conference Finals tonight. He has a total of 41 Conference Final appearances, which is twice as many as the total number of appearances for the entire Toronto Raptors team (41 -20). Though this game is lacking in hype with everyone’s attention on the Western Conference Finals and expecting the Cleveland Cavilers to easily advance; it still has a chance to make some noise.
The Raptors are coming off a Game 7 victory which gives them some momentum as they approach the game tonight in Cleveland. The Raptors have a dynamic duo in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan who seem to have finally begun to spark. Lowry scored 35 points in Game 7, while DeRozan put up 28. This may be the perfect time for the pair to come alive facing a Cleveland team who has yet to lose in the 2016 NBA Playoffs. Even with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving playing very well together, the Raptors can look to use their role players Bismack Biyombo and DeMarre Carroll to make it difficult for LeBron to drive in the paint. Cleveland has been dependent upon LeBron penetrating and dishing the ball out to role players who are able to make field goals on the perimeter. If the Raptors want to have a chance at upsetting the Cavaliers they will have to find a way to lessen the number of these easy attempts.
In the regular season the Raptors won two out of the three games they played against the Cavs, with both wins coming at home. The Cavaliers were able to keep it close in all three games, even with LeBron not starting in one of them. One thing to look for is how Cleveland responds to defensive aggression. Cleveland has yet to face an opponent who is tougher than they are defensively, but that will change tonight as Toronto comes in ranked at #4 on defense with Cleveland sitting just below in the 5th spot. The Raptors are looking to make their first NBA Finals appearance and their journey continues with Game 1.
The series starts tonight in Cleveland and will be televised on ESPN with tip off set for 8:30 PM EDT.
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