In the 2006 movie, Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby says, ” If you are not first, you’re last.” This pretty much sums up LeBron James over the past 6 years. The former Miami Heat star and now Cleveland Cavaliers forward, has been to six straight finals. Not since the 1960s Boston Celtics, has one player been so dominant. Standing in his way to get one step closer towards a 7th straight finals appearance is The Toronto Raptors. The Raptors defeated a young, talented Milwaukee Bucks teams 4-2 while the Cavs swept the Pacers,4-0 in the first round. Coincidentally, I was 7 out of 8 in my first round picks, my only loss… I thought the Bucks would advance pass Toronto.
The Raptors were led all season by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan but their production went down in the first round of the playoffs. Lowry only averaged 14 .3 points per game and DeRozan averaged 23.5. Late season addition, Serge Ibaka, has helped providing 12.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. They rest of the team struggled to score and they only averaged 93.6 points against the Bucks.
The Cavaliers swept the Indiana Pacers and it was really their bench that came up big. In game 3, at Indiana, the Cavs were down 26 points and came back to win. They did this with LeBron James and bench players, Channing Frye, Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert and Darren Williams. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving were all on the bench during this comeback. James is one of the few players in all of sports that when the competition gets better so does his numbers. The man they call “The King” averaged 32.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 4 games against the Pacers. Irving and Love averaged 40 points per game combine and Thompson dominated the boards averaging 11 per contest.
The only way to beat the Cavs consistently is to pass up a good shot for a great shot. You must have ball movement, you must make them defend and rotate. This does not bode well for Toronto, they were last in the NBA in assists. They rely too much on isolation basketball with Lowry and DeRozan. One of the reason Toronto brought in Ibaka was to nullify Kevin Love. But Ibaka is really a “poor man’s” version of Love. He is not as good of a shooter, rebounder, passer or scorer.
The Cavs are well rested and they will get better as the playoffs move along. I fully expect their bench with Korver and Frye to continue to provide outside shooting and Williams to give Irving rest during games. To a man, Toronto knows they can’t beat Cleveland. This series is over before they take the court.
The Cavs in 4-5 games.
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