Four Keys to a Cavs Conference Finals Sweep
Yes, Cleveland would become the first team to go 12-0 into the NBA Finals.
While the second-best team in the East stands in their way, Cleveland sports have probably never placed faith more confidently than in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Toronto Raptors. The reasons are manifested throughout this matchup, where one team who has played the most possible goes this postseason against a team that has played the least possible games. With nine days of rest, the Cavaliers have had plenty of time to review notes for their class in “Sweeping a series.” Here are four keys to unlocking the Cavs’ third straight sweep.
1. Give the ultra green light.
Cavs have connected on 134 total triples in eight playoff games, a record in case you weren’t sure. What makes the record truly amazing is that 77 of those threes were scored on the NBA’s 5th (East’s 3rd) best three-point defense, per NBA.com. Toronto, who ranks second worse in the NBA this category, will not have a sunny forecast. For the Cavs, the lights out-shooting is very, very colorful:
2. Don’t jack up midrange shots unless your name is Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland’s eight-game start in the playoffs matches its longest winning streak of the regular season. This brand of basketball pays for shots with a purpose and the Cavs have found it in the paint and beyond the arc, shooting above the Raptors and league average from those distances, per NBA.com/Stats.
There are two names that immediately come to mind for domination from both these distances: Irving and Love. Together, LeBron’s accomplices have combined for 43.3ppg, 14.4rpg, 7.6apg, and 1.63spg in the playoffs. Detroit and Atlanta really never had answers for Cleveland’s offense, as the Cavs still hold the third highest midrange FG% in the playoffs despite it not being their best weapon. They’re led by the nightmare that is Irving coming off a screen into that soft pocket, where he converts 42.9% of a team-high 6.1 midrange attempts per game in the playoffs (NBA.com). The posts, drives, and distance-independent shooting spell SOL for Toronto.
3. Unleash the Tristan.
With Jonas Valanciunas missing at least the first couple games, Toronto will deploy another aggressive Raptor in Bismack Biyombo.
Yet the energetic Biyombo is a significant step back from Valanciunas, who can do it all off the pick-and-roll and grab four or more offensive rebounds a game, per ESPN.com. Valanciunas contributed in large part to their highest field goal percentage in the 3-10 feet region, where they convert above the Cavs and league’s average.
Without Whiteside, Miami gave the budding Biyombo a lot of space to flourish down low. Toronto’s defense has always created more steals and blocks than Cleveland in both the regular season and playoffs. Coincidentally, the Cavs’ also surrender a higher FG% from 3-10 feet than the league average (NBA.com). Tyronn Lue’s lynchpin, therefore, must be effectively using Tristan Thompson and command all his value on the glass and in the paint on both ends. After all, he did just help the Cavs sweep the playoff leaders in blocks.
— Cavs Nation (@CavsNationNet) May 8, 2016
4. Don’t die of laughter when a Northerner says “we won the regular season series.”
Toronto, at least you’re not Detroit. Not yet, anyways. The East’s top two teams did not fall short competitively in the regular season. The Raptors squeezed out an extra win off a career-high night (43 points) for the now struggling Kyle Lowry, but they did showcase a worthy season campaign for the second seed. During the season, the Cavs and Raptors were a match in opponent scoring, rebounding and possession (pace, if you will). In other words, they were a match in intensity. Keyword is were.
All this talk about rebounding in the WCF when…
Thompson leads playoffs in OREB%
Love leads playoffs in 2nd chance scoring
— Nikki Goel (@NikkiGoelCavs) May 17, 2016
The Raptors were also a team in the regular season who turned the ball over the second-fewest times; now they stumble in the middle of the pack, turning it over an average of three more times each playoff game (NBA.com). Cleveland has made it a habit to control its destiny this postseason, pushing teams at its physicality and pace. Irving leads in scoring and is currently orchestrating a career-best assist-to-turnover ratio this postseason, his first time with at least 3:1 efficiency (ESPN.com). Love has gone from a liability to a difference maker, with a Lil’ Kev Instagram verification on the way thanks to Richard Jefferson. Cavs are harmonized and with enough composure to go around from LeBron, the Raptors will depart from its first Conference Finals discombobulated.
Regardless of how many games it takes, the Cavs are simply packing too much momentum, talent and (finally, some God Damn) chemistry for the Raptors. I respect Cory Joseph a lot. I took Lowry with the 1st pick in the 2nd round of my fantasy league draft this year. But, I mean, have you seen Toronto’s offense this postseason?
And that’s how you hunt a dinosaur.