Capsule preview of the Cavaliers-Raptors East finals
A look at the Eastern Conference finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors (with regular-season and playoff records):
No. 1 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (57-25, 8-0) vs. No. 2 TORONTO RAPTORS (56-26, 8-6)
Season series: Raptors, 2-1. Toronto pulled out two wins at home by a combined six points, including a 99-97 victory on Feb. 26 when Kyle Lowry capped a career-best, 43-point outing with a jumper with 3.9 seconds left. The Cavaliers won 122-100 in the lone meeting in Cleveland. The Cavaliers made 43 3-pointers (14.3 per game), including 17 in their victory, with J.R. Smith going 14 for 25 (56 percent) in the series. LeBron James averaged 23 points – despite sitting out the fourth quarter of Cleveland's victory – and Kevin Love went for 18.3 per game.
Story line: The top two teams in the Eastern Conference took decidedly different routes to the conference finals – the first one in Raptors history. The Cavaliers swept Detroit and then Atlanta with a record-setting 3-point attack that looked straight out of Golden State's playbook. Toronto had to survive two seven-game series to get this far, outlasting Indiana and Miami.
Key Matchup: Kyrie Irving vs. Lowry. Irving, not James, remains the Cavs' leading scorer in the postseason, averaging 24.4 points, shooting 54 percent from 3-point range and playing with explosiveness he didn't really have at this time last year when injuries had already set in. Lowry is back to an elite level after struggling with his shot earlier in the postseason, scoring more than 30 points three times in the second round, including 35 in Game 7. He averaged 31 against the Cavs during the regular season on 66 percent shooting.
X-Factor: Bismack Biyombo. Playing what might be the best basketball of his career in place of the injured Jonas Valanciunas, the center had 17 points and 16 rebounds in the clinching victory over the Heat. He hurt the Cavs during the regular season, making 12-of-14 shots and averaging 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds, and the Raptors will hope he can be effective against a small lineup the same way he was Sunday.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 5.