CLEVELAND--The Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors will tip off Game One at 7 pm at Quicken Loans Arena on Monday May 1. The Cavaliers and Raptors both finished the regular season with identical 51-31 records, but the Cavs received the No. 2 seed over Toronto by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams.
The two teams met last year in the Eastern Conference Finals where the Cavs prevailed 4-2 to send them to the NBA Finals, where they ultimately won the NBA Championship by defeating the Golden State Warriors in seven games. Toronto and Cleveland are meeting one round earlier this season in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals.
Added from last year's championship team are Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, while missing are Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov, who were both seldom used in the playoffs. For the Raptors, Bismack Biyombo is gone, but Toronto has added Sarge Ibaka to this year's team.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving (25.2 ppg., 5.8 apg.) vs. Kyle Lowry (22.4 ppg, 4.6 rbp, 7.0 apg)
Irving averaged 25.2 points a game this season and shot .471 from the field, including .401 from three-point range. However, in the sweep over the Pacers, Irving was just 7-of-32 on 3-pointers. Irving can still take over a game, when needed, and the Cavs might need him in this series.
Shooting Guard: J.R. Smith (8.6 ppg.) vs. DeMar DeRozan (27.3 ppg., 5.2 rpg., 3.9 apg.)
DeRozan is the Raptors best all-around player, who can attack the rim and shoot the three. He also is deadly from mid-range.
For all practical purposes, Smith had a very poor season after holding out and signing his big contract. He then missed three months with a broken thumb. Smith averaged just 8.6 points a game and shot just .346 from distance, but he is needed now for his defense than shooting. If Smith can contain DeRozan, that will go a long way, but Iman Shumpert and Deron Williams might see more time if Smith struggles on offense.
Small Forward: LeBron James (26.4 ppg.,8.6 rpg., 8.7 apg.) vs. DeMarre Carroll (8.9 ppg.)
Carroll is a good defender, but he's going to try to force James to tire on the defensive end. James had a great first round against the Pacers with 32.8 ppg., 9.8 rpg. and 9.0 apg. James also shot 45 percent from three-point range in the opening series.
Power Forward: Kevin Love (19.0 ppg., 11.1 rpg.) vs. Serge Ibaka (14.2 ppg., 6.8 rpg.)
Ibaka came over mid-season in a trade and definitely gives Toronto a defender and a reliable scorer.
Love had some great moments in the first round and some down moments, but was big at the free throw line shooting .864, including 12-of-12 in Game 2 on his way to 27 points.
Love averaged 19 points a game and 11.1 rebounds in the season, despite missing a month after knee surgery.
Center: Tristan Thompson (9.2 ppg., 8.1 rpg.) vs. Jonas Valanciunas (12.0 ppg., 9.5 rpg.)
Thompson averaged 11.0 rebounds in the first series and played good defense. Valanciunas has an edge inside scoring, but the Cavs will try to get him away from the basket on defense.
Bench: Kyle Korver (10.7 ppg., .485 3-point shooting with Cavs), Deron Williams (7.5 ppg.), Channing Frye (9.1 ppg., .409 3-point shooting), , Richard Jefferson (5.7 ppg.), Iman Shumpert (.411 from field) vs. Corey Joseph (9.3 ppg.), Norman Powell (8.4 ppg.), Patrick Patterson (6.8 ppg.).
Series Prediction: Last year, the Cavs won the first two games before Toronto picked up a win and the Cavs won in six games on Toronto's home court. Similar to last season, the Cavs could be pushed by the Raptors, but see the Cavs prevailing in six. As talented as the Raptors are with DeRozan and Lowry, the Cavs have James, Irving and Love. Cavs 4-2.