The defending champion Cavs came into this season as the favorites to win the East.
Most still predict them to win, although they looked vulnerable down the regular season stretch, especially regarding their defense. But they gained some confidence back in the first round, sweeping a solid Indiana Pacers team.
As for the Raptors, they regressed from last season, going from 56 to 51 wins this year. But they still got by a rising Milwaukee Bucks squad in the first round and will try to dethrone the defending champs. Midseason addition Serge Ibaka could very well help them do this.
Who should we expect to move on in this Eastern Conference semifinals matchup? Who should you bet on? Find out as we preview both teams and discuss their betting odds.
Eastern Conference Semifinals Playoff Series
No. 3 Raptors vs. No. 2 Cavs
Game 1 Betting Line: Toronto +6.5, Cleveland -6.5
Over/Under 208.5 (-110)
Other Betting Lines: Check GTBets.eu
Game 1 @CLE: 7 pm EST, Monday, May 1 (TNT)
Game 2 @CLE: 7 pm EST, Wednesday, May 3 (TNT)
Game 3 @TOT: 7 pm EST, Friday, May 5 (ESPN)
Game 4 @TOR: 1 pm EST, Sunday, May 7 (ABC)
Game 5 @CLE: TBD, Tuesday, May 9 (TNT)
Game 6 @TOR: TBD, Thursday, May 11 (ESPN)
Game 7 @CLE: TBD, Saturday, May 14 (TNT)
Cleveland Cavaliers Semifinals Preview
They weren’t exactly defensive stalwarts in the Pacers series, allowing 108.8 PPG to Indiana. Even still, Cleveland had their moments and did enough to stop the Pacers on key possessions.
Much of the problem here is that the Cavs had a lot of roster turnover down the stretch. The added Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, Dahntay Jones (again), and Eddy Tavares in the second half of the season.
It takes practice time and experience to integrate so many new faces into the defensive scheme. And thanks to their sweep of the Pacers, Cleveland had an opportunity to do this over the past 8 days.
We don’t expect this to mean lock-down defense on the Raptors. But it should help Cleveland play much better than they showed over the last few weeks of the regular season.
Of course, the Cavs’ chances of winning this series will largely depend upon if their offense keeps churning. They swept Indiana because they averaged 112.8 PPG and were always able to come up with big shots when needed.
Not surprisingly, LeBron James led the way with 32.8 PPG, including a 37.0 average in the last two games. Kyrie Irving also scored plenty, averaging 25.3 PPG.
Kevin Love had his moments with 15.5 PPG; however, this is 5 points below his season average. The Cavs will need more out of J.R. Smith too, who scored just 6.8 PPG against the Pacers.
Cavaliers ATS Record: The Cavs are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games against the spread. They were 0-2 ATS at home against Indiana, but rallied to go 1-0-1 in both road games.
However, it’s hard to see them covering -6.5 at home in Game 1, considering that they only won by an average of 4 points against Indiana.
Toronto Raptors Semifinals Preview
The Raptors had a rough start to the playoffs, going down 2-1 to Milwaukee. But they rallied to win the last three contests by an average of 13 PPG.
Don’t expect to see the same thing this series because Toronto will have a size advantage by playing Valaciunas and Ibaka together. It’ll especially be interesting to see how Valaciunas does because he was limited (ankle) in last year’s postseason meeting with Cleveland.
Another plus for Toronto is that they can throw different looks at James on defense. They can go bigger with Powell and Ibaka, or use smaller defenders like P.J. Tucker and DeMarre Carroll. Nobody’s expecting them to completely stop King James, but they could at least slow him down.
Perhaps more than anything, the Raptors will benefit from having Ibaka this time around. The 6’10” power forward can block shots, post up, and shoot three-pointers.
“[Ibaka brings] just a different dynamic,” Kevin Love told ESPN when critiquing his opponents. “Definitely shooters with both him and [Patrick] Patterson out there. He brings a ton of energy. Played really well in Round 1, so he just gives them a whole different look and a guy who has a ton of playoff experience coming from Oklahoma City. Obviously getting traded from Orlando, but all his playoff experience being there and playing in a lot of big games. He really helps them.”
Of course, nobody will forget about the high-scoring duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Both had their struggles against Milwaukee’s length, with Lowry averaging just 14.3 PPG in the series, and DeRozan having an 0-for-8 performance in Game 3.
But these two have their best supporting cast ever, meaning that we should overlook their 4-2 conference finals loss to Cleveland last year.
Raptors ATS Record: Toronto is 4-5-1 against the spread in their last 10 contests, including 3-3 against Milwaukee. They were only 1-2 on the road in this series, but they’ll have a strong chance to cover +6.5 in Cleveland.
Final Thoughts on Raptors vs Cavs Playoffs Betting
Looking purely at betting, we like the Raptors in Game 1. We also like them beyond if they keep getting soft lines.
But as for who’ll win the series, the key stat comes down to three-pointers. Cleveland made 13.5 three’s per game against Indiana, which leads playoff clubs. Meanwhile, Toronto allowed a postseason-worst 41.2% three-point shooting to Milwaukee in the first round.
This year’s version of Toronto has more talent than the 2016 squad. But with a healthy LeBron James, we think the result will be the same as the 2016 conference finals.
Series Prediction: Cavs win series 4-2