Raptors seek formula to beat Cavs

Toronto feels it has toughened up since last spring's Eastern Conference finals, a series Cleveland dominated even while dropping two games.

More unbelievable is that James has been to the NBA Finals in seven different seasons - and he's done it with four different coaches.

Here are five questions heading into the series.

The Cavs and James are now waiting for their second round opponents. Simple: Cleveland's defense has been bad.

The 32-year-old James played a seemingly exorbitant 43.8 minutes per game in the Cavs' first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, tops among all players so far this postseason.

Toronto lost three of four against Cleveland this season with the only win coming in the season finale, when Lue rested James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The Raptors are a more talented team than the Pacers, but the Cavs still have the edge in that category. Toronto has better defensive tools this year, but I don't trust them to be used properly. In fact, LeBron James and company are spending their time crushing workouts in the gym. James averaged 27.7 points, 9.7 assists and 8.3 rebounds in his three games against Toronto. The Warriors also beat the Raptors, easily.

In preparation, I'm going to consider Cleveland's roster, with a look at their starters today and the bench tomorrow. "I know the Raptors have some good solid defenders but I don't think they can stop LeBron", he said.

"(But) I'd rather have this than having to jump on a plane with one day's practice and going through their personnel, their plays, their sets, what we have to do with them, like we had previous year". However, things might be more interesting this time around. Toronto - like many other teams - didn't have an answer for LeBron previous year. Stopping the rest of the Bucks made the difference.

Kyle Korver was brought in to help spread the floor and he'll shoot, but he needs to be more efficient from distance. The Cleveland Cavaliers are healthy, play at another level in the playoffs and have the difference maker in James.

The Mavericks took away the paint from James, forcing him to be a jump shooter and keeping him off the free throw line. Against the Cavs in last year's series, Lowry averaged 20.2 points and shot 47.4 percent from the field, and 34.8 percent from three. The Raptors built themselves up since then specifically to take Cleveland out in a seven-game series the next time. Torontos assist ratio — the percentage of a teams possessions that end with an assist — in that game was 21.8, which is a Golden State kind of number. In an Eastern Conference that Cavs-star LeBron James has owned for the past decade, the wine and gold would have a good shot to get back to the NBA Finals. Toronto fans should at least take solace that their team isn't facing LeBron in the first round. This series will be different.

Toronto lost two of its first three games against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, failing ATS in all three contests. "But I'm able to look at all the signs in the crowd and still maintain my focus on the court, too, so it doesn't do much".

Point spread: The Cavaliers opened as 6.5-point favorites; the total is at 208.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. The Cavs haven't played well in over a month but it would still be a surprise to see them fail to make it to the conference finals after this one.

"Every day he's getting more and more comfortable with what we want to do", James said.

The playoff version of the Raptors has been a roller coaster ride the past two seasons.

In Game 5 of last year's first-round series against the Pacers, the rookie Powell shut down Paul George in the fourth quarter and electrified the sold-out Air Canada Centre crowd with a game-tying dunk.

Smith, who attempted a brain-dead, behind-the-back pass late in Game 4 vs. in that could have cost the Cavs a victory, averaged just 6.8 points in the first round.

The NBA Playoffs continue Monday with a a pair of Conference Quarterfinals openers - the Cavaliers will entertain the Raptors and the Spurs will welcome the Rockets. The Spurs-Rockets game probably goes to the Spurs, although there is some uncertainty here. They are also 46-42 against the over/under overall and 18-26 on the road as they had more issues scoring. "We have to worry about Game 1 first". The Cavs swept both series. The Raptors may have the best chance of anyone in the East to beat Cleveland head to head, and they will make their opponent fight hard to beat them.

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