The Toronto Raptors were able to fend off the Washington Wizards in the first round of the East Conference playoffs setting up a matchup with their nemesis The Cleveland Lebron James’s. Cleveland has ended the Raptors playoff runs two years in a row including an embarassing sweep during last years conference semi-finals .LeBron James averaged 36 points in that sweep for Cleveland and carried his squad through a seven-game battle with the Indiana Pacers in the first round by pouring in 34.4 per game, including 45 in the 105-101 clincher Sunday.
The key to this series is and always will be Lebron James. Can he continue to hold up a Cavaliers team that has been uninspiring through its first round series. The evolution of the Raptors game has been a bright spot for them this season leading to a number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Moving away from the simple pick and roll offense of years past into a more ball movement offense has changed the way the play. Home court advantage in this series will also be a huge advantage, the Raptors were tied for the best home record in the NBA while at best the Cavaliers were mediocre to say it best. If the Raptors can jump out to an early 2-0 lead in the series it could deflate the psychie of an already mentally drained king.
The Cavaliers do have some hope, the emergence of Tristan Thompson in game seven could breath some fresh air into a team badly in need of a change. The Cavaliers also will likely have a healthy George Hill for the series, something the missed very much in the first round. His defensive ability will be huge against the Raptors star front court. But all of the role players in the world mean nothing if Lebron doesn’t carry the load. He has had little help from teammates in the postseason — Kyle Korver was often the Cavs’ second-best player until Tristan Thompson’s revival on sunday— and has had to carry Cleveland to this point. In the Cavs’ first three wins of the series, they needed 46, 32 and 44 points from James to get the W, plus 45 points in a tough game seven.
The Raptors have their best chance to dethrone the East’s top dog and they have to take advantage of this chance right now. With the young Sixers continuing to get better and the Celtics getting back a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward next year the Raptors window for Eastern Conference greatness is quickly closing. The question on everyone’s mind is whether the Raptors mentally have what it takes to overcome their past. Can they forget their history and pull off what many outside of Vegas would consider an upset? They have the star power, the bench and the experience to do it. They have to prove it.
Raptors in 7
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