The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors open their second round series tonight after both were unimpressive, yet victorious, in their first round. It's the age old question tonight for Cleveland; Rest or Rust??
It was a end of an era yesterday in Los Angeles, and it went with a whimper rather than a bang. The Jazz easily handled the Clippers, who could never get into the game enough in the second half to put any game pressure on the lesser-experienced Jazz. Utah became just the 26th team in the NBA history to win a Game Seven on the road, a feat less than 20% of teams had been successful in accomplishing, and will advance to face the mighty Warriors in Round Two.
But what of the mess left behind in L.A? It is easy to say “this thing didn’t work, let’s blow it up.” It is harder to put it back together. Ready to move on from JJ Reddick? You might find a more versatile two-guard, but likely not a better shooter. Thinking of moving Blake Griffin and his injury-prone nature? It will be hard to get similar value in return. And ready to move on from the Chris Paul Era? WHO is going to be a better replacement for the future Hall of Famer??
It’s a sad end to an otherwise exciting time in sparse Clippers history, but it does look like it has all come to a disappointing conclusion…
Tonight, two second round series get under way with both home teams pretty healthy favorites. Will either be challenged in Game One?
Today’s NBA Pick:
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers -7
I find it hard to imagine Toronto has any shot to win this series, regardless of the 53%/47% odds that ESPN’s BPI puts narrowly in the Cavaliers favor. The Raptors have been downright dreadful in the postseason at times as their guard-centric offense has been inefficient. They rebounded late in the series to dispatch the young Bucks, but will find a much stiffer opponent in Round Two.
However, on the Raptors side of the ledger, these two played a bevy of close games during the regular season, and for any ills the Raptors have shown, the Cavaliers are fresh off one of the least impressive series sweeps in NBA history. They could have lost three games in that series easily, and even in the fourth win they experienced enough lulls in attention to allow the Pacers to have a chance to win in the final seconds.
Lulls in Attention would be an excellent title of the Cavaliers 2016-2017 Mix Tape. It isn’t that Cleveland is any less capable of defending than they were a year ago, it is that they are at times, less willing. There is no reason that this should be the 23rd ranked team in defensive efficiency. Yet they are. They are no reason the Pacers should have had a chance in every fourth quarter in the last series. Yet they did. Now tonight, after an eight-day layoff, we are to expect Cleveland to finally blow a team out?
There’s nothing to like about the Raptors in this series. They aren’t winning it. But there is so little about Cleveland’s recent play to inspire confidence that seven points is a tough number to lay down.
I’ll take a disinterested Cavaliers squad to allow Toronto enough life to be in this basketball game and cover the spread.
Today’s NBA Pick: TORONTO RAPTORS +7