Can the Raptors dethrone LeBron James and the Cavaliers?
Monday - 01/05/2017 14:21
Toronto looks to topple reigning champs in 2nd-round playoff series
A little less than a year after meeting in the NBA's Eastern Conference final, the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers will square off one round earlier when their playoff series tips off Monday at 7 p.m. ET.
Though the Cavaliers are seeded No. 2 in the conference (behind Boston), they're still the favourites to represent the East in the NBA Finals for the third straight year since LeBron James returned to Cleveland.
Here are some key points to consider as the No. 3-seeded Raptors try to dethrone King James and his cavalry.
Tale of 2 defences
Prior to the all-star break, Toronto ranked 16th in defensive rating at 106 points allowed per 100 possessions.
It was clear the Raptors needed more tenacity defensively if they had any hopes of challenging James and the Cavaliers, and the Toronto brass responded by acquiring Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.
The duo has turned the Raptors into an elite defensive team.
From the time Ibaka and Tucker joined the club through the end of the regular season, Toronto boasted the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA at 102.3 points allowed per 100 possessions.
During the same period, Cleveland ranked 29th, surrendering almost nine points more per 100 possessions.
While the Cavaliers swept the Pacers in the opening round of the playoffs, their defensive struggles have carried over.
Indiana — a middle-of-the-pack offensive squad — hit the century mark in each game, and while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are gifted offensive players for Cleveland, they're both liabilities defensively.
Cleveland's juggernaut offence is a huge reason why it has been able to win games despite a porous defence.
The Cavaliers are averaging almost 113 points a contest on 48 per cent shooting during this year's post-season.
A huge part of their arsenal is the three-point shot, which accounted for 35 per cent of their points scored during the regular season.