James helps Cleveland into second round

James helps Cleveland into second round

We've read all kinds of variations of the following observation too many times, but it doesn't make it any less true: The Cavaliers are alive in the second round of the National Basketball Association playoffs, but it's hard to feel very good about their lackluster showing against the Indiana Pacers.

No Eastern Conference team has been able to halt LeBron James' march to the conference final since 2011. Tipoff is 8 p.m. Last year it was in round two, the year previous it was the Eastern Conference Final. Is this the season the Toronto Raptors finally vanquish the Cavaliers, or will it be more of the same. "I felt like I wanted to do that again in this series", said James, who is now 5-2 in game sevens in all rounds of the playoffs.

Cleveland managed to claw their way past the Pacers and win Game 7 to take the series but it still left much to be desired in the grand scheme of things. "We've been in situations before, we've played in big games before, so that's a comfort to start the game". James Harden scored 41 points as the Rockets romped to a 110-96 victory. Cleveland played Toronto twice without Isaiah Thomas this season and once with him. He also shot a ridiculous 62% from the field and the Cavs went on to win the title. Three weeks later, Thomas was sent packing to the Los Angeles Lakers in one of the trade-deadline deals engineered by Cavs general manager Koby Altman. The Cavaliers won 132-129.

Cleveland was blown out in Game 1 of their first-round series, despite a triple-double by LeBron James.

James would have likely played another 40 minutes in Game 6 (played only 31 minutes) had the score been closer heading into the fourth quarter, already trailing by 25 points by the end of the third. Irving finished with 24 points and 10 assists. In 2017, it was only 11, 22, 21, and 7. Good Lord. Six of the wins came by at least 19 points.

Should the Raptors eliminate the Cavs, there's a chance they won't have to worry about LeBron any longer in the East. James' layup pushed the lead to 102-96. Kevin Love struggled against the Pacers, but he averaged 17 points and 12 boards in three games against the Raptors this season.

The Cavs will defeat the Raptors 4-2 in this series.

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Toronto is 14-9 ATS versus poor defensive teams - allowing 106+ points per game - in the second half of the season.

This first playoff meeting between the franchises had enough twists and turns for a daytime TV drama. Game one tips off on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. The defense was stout, limiting Lowry to eight points on 4-of-14 shooting.

"We started the game with a unit that we knew", James said Sunday.

The Raptors are in the position to overpower the Cavs the way a one-seed normally overpower a four-seed. Perhaps, the deep Raptors can grind him into elimination. The Cavs were shredded by Lowry and DeRozan to the tune of 35 and 32 points, respectively.

Nevertheless, Raptors coach Dwane Casey expects James to be fully fresh once tip-off time arrives Tuesday. The Cavs averaged 94.8 points per game against IN during the first round series. They are averaging 11 made 3s per game - the 3rd-highest figure among teams remaining in the bracket. It would be easier to say James vs. everybody, but the point guard matchup is particularly significant in this series.

While Cleveland had to go the distance to escape the first round, Toronto managed to put things away in Game 6, becoming the first road team to earn a win in the series.

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