I’d like to tell you that the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals between the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and No. 2 Toronto Raptors will be compelling basketball and will go the full seven games. I’d like to tell you that, but I simply don’t think it will happen. I’d be stunned if the Cavs are even dragged to six games. They are -1400 on the betting lines for the series with Toronto at +850.
NBA Eastern Conference Championship Prediction
Toronto might have a shot at extending it to seven games if starting center Jonas Valanciunas was healthy. But he’s not. He will not play Game 1 due to an ankle injury and is already listed as doubtful for Game 2. Coach Dwane Casey wouldn’t didn’t give a timetable on Valanciunas’ return but said he wasn’t yet able to participate in basketball activities. Valanciunas was hurt in the third quarter of Toronto’s Game 3 win over the Heat while contesting guard Dwyane Wade’s layup attempt at the rim. For the postseason, Valanciunas is averaging 15.0 points and 12.1 rebounds per game on 55 percent shooting. He was a team-high plus-39 in Games 1-3 against Miami. Bismack Biyombo has started in his absence, and finished Game 7 against the Heat with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Toronto was 15-6 in games without Valanciunas during the regular season, including one win against the Cavaliers.
Cleveland is the only undefeated team in the 2016 playoffs (8-0). They are also 9th team in NBA postseason history to start 8-0 and the first team to do so since 2012 (San Antonio). The only other time the Cavs started a postseason with 8 straight wins was back in 2009. Cleveland has made at least 12 three-pointers in an NBA playoff-record eight consecutive games and leads all 2016 postseason teams in total three-pointers made (134), three-point percentage (.462) and three-pointers per game (16.8). In the four game sweep of Atlanta in the last round, the Cavs made 77 3-pointers, averaging 19.3 3s per game. Their 77 triples were the highest for any playoff series that lasted six or fewer games. The Cavs are just the 2nd team in NBA history to start a postseason 8-0 and scored 100 points in each game (Lakers in 1982, 9 straight games with 100 points).LeBron James has six games with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists this postseason (122 in playoff career). He has also scored at least 20 points in 18 consecutive playoff games, which is the longest active streak in NBA. James needs 1 three-pointer to pass Chauncey Billups (267) for sole possession of 7th place in career playoff 3-point field goals made and 6 triples to pass Paul Pierce (272) for 6th in NBA playoff history. James is also 43 points away from passing Shaquille O’Neal (5,250) for 4th place in all-time playoff scoring and 18 assists from moving past Jason Kidd (1,263) for 3rd place on the league’s postseason assists list.
Toronto did go 2-1 against Cleveland in the regular season, but that matters little. The Raptors won both home games against the Cavaliers – Nov. 25 (W 103-99) and Feb. 26 (99-97). It marked the first time since 2003-04 that Toronto defeated LeBron twice in the same season when he played. The Raptors are one of three East teams James has yet to face in the postseason, along with Miami and Orlando
The Raptors are in the conference finals for the first time in the franchise’s 21-year history. Charlotte, Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans remain as the only active NBA franchises that have never appeared in the conference finals.
Expert Betting Prediction:
Cavaliers in five