The Cleveland Cavaliers look to remain perfect in the playoffs when they host the Toronto Raptors in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday night. LeBron James and Co. will have a difficult time repeating their dominance from Game 1, but there’s little reason to believe they won’t win and take a 2-0 series lead.
Cleveland was barely better than Toronto during the regular season, finishing just one game ahead of them in the standings and losing two of their three head-to-head matchups with the Raptors. But the defending Eastern Conference champs have raised their game in the postseason, playing at the level of the top teams in the West. The Raptors are a solid team, but unlike the other three teams remaining in the playoffs, they are not legitimate NBA Finals contenders.
Game 1 was over by the time the first half was ended. James and Kyrie Irving totaled 51 points in 58 minutes of play, shooting a combined 22-of-30. Kevin Love scored 14 points on just eight shot attempts, and Cleveland’s bench added 39 points. The Cavs shot 55.4 percent from the field, and if that continues, the Raptors might not have much of a chance.
The Cavaliers are shooting 47 percent for the postseason, including 45.5 percent from three-point range. Cleveland got to the basket with such ease on Tuesday that they didn’t need to rely on a barrage of shots from behind the arc, but if Toronto steps up its interior defense, the Cavs can still win handily by making three-pointers.
Channing Frye was a key addition at the trade deadline for Cleveland, and he’s made 14-of-24 three-pointers in the playoffs. When playing Frye or Love at center and James at power forward, Cleveland has been very difficult to stop.
It’s hard to believe that the Raptors won’t improve upon their Game 1 performance. Kyle Lowry scored just eight points on 4-of-14 shooting, numbers that won’t be replicated for a second straight game. Toronto converted just five of their 24 three-point attempts, and those numbers should also improve.
But the East’s No.2 seed remains overmatched, and they aren’t likely to pull off the upset on the road. Toronto is undermanned without center Jonas Valanciunas, who’ll miss another game with an ankle injury. He was averaging 15.0 points and 12.1 rebounds per game before being sidelined.
Start Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Prediction: Cleveland over Toronto, 105-95