The Eastern Conference has been looked at as the Cleveland Invitational Tournament all season long. Everyone has had their eyes on them all season long. And through a coaching change and the talks of chemistry issues for the Cavs, they still were the kings of the East. But right behind them were the Toronto Raptors. They had their best regular season in team history and the Raptors and their fans believed they could make huge mark in the postseason. And despite the struggles of DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry throughout the playoffs, they have found a way to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Now stand the top two teams in the East, ready to fight each other for the chance to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (2) Toronto Raptors
How Cleveland can win: Offensively, the Cavaliers have grown all season long. To start the season, they were more of an isolation team with shooters just standing around. And now, they are a team that moves the basketball and gets everyone involved. They must continue to get everyone involved against the Raptors defense. If they move the basketball and shoot the ball like they can, the Raptors will have some issues keeping up with them. Defensively, the Cavaliers must stay in front of the Raptors. If the Raptors are a team that takes tough shots and they have made them most of the season. But as they have shown in the playoffs, if you make them take tough shots, they find it hard to score.
How Toronto can win: The Raptors are not the defensive team they were last year, but the gameplan should be simple. Deter the ball movement from the Cavaliers and make them an isolation offense like they were at the beginning of the year. If the Raptors are able to achieve this feat, then the Cavs will not be able to score like they have in the playoffs. Offensively, the Raptors have to make things easy for themselves. Isolation basketball by Derozan and Lowry will not work against Cleveland at all. If they are able to make things easier for themselves and their teammates and keep the Cavaliers out of transition because of their turnovers. If not, then they could be facing some trouble from the Cavs.
Cleveland: The Cavs have had many guys play well. But in this series, the Cavs will be getting a great lift off their bench from Channing Frye. The veteran big man can stretch the floor with his three-point ability and he has benefited from the great ball movement in the playoffs. Look for him to sizzle the nets against the Raptors, especially if the Cavs put him in the game at center against Bismack Biyombo. If that happens, then that drags Biyombo out of the paint and gives the Cavaliers a run at the rim with no rim protection. He could be vital if the Cavs win this series.
Toronto: The Raptors have been leaning on other players since their two stars have been missing in action for most of the playoffs. And one more of those guys will be key to them having a shot at the Eastern Conference title. That player in this series has to be Terrence Ross. The young, athletic wing was excellent for the Raptors against the Heat and needs to carry that confidence over into this series. If he can come out shooting the basketball well, he can help create lanes for guards like Cory Joseph, Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan to make things difficult for the Cavs defensively. Look for Ross to have one heck of a series.
Outcome: The Cavs are the favorites and have been consistent all playoffs long. Meanwhile, the Raptors have been up and down all playoffs long. In this series for them to win, they must be consistent and come out with energy and poise every single game. Couple that with shotmaking and they could make the Cavaliers sweat. Unfortunately, they will only make the Cavs sweat a couple times followed by the Cavs answering and shutting the door on the Raptors and their season. Toronto had a good run, but it all stops right here. And this one could be a painful ending.
Conclusion: Cleveland wins this series in five games