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Some random pregame stuff for Cavaliers vs. Raptors, meeting in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Monday in Cleveland.
1. Toronto was built with the Cavs in mind — period. The Raptors don’t concern themselves with anyone else in the East. They will willingly admit all of their moves were made in an attempt to overtake the defending champs.
2. One move was trading for Serge Ibaka (from Orlando) during the season. Ibaka is a big, athletic power forward with decent range. He was obtained to counter the Cavs’ Kevin Love.
3. The Raptors also landed P.J. Tucker from Phoenix before the trade deadline. Tucker is a staunch defender of swingmen. Ever hear of someone on the Cavs named LeBron James? Well, James is one big reason why the Raptors went out and got Tucker.
4. The Cavs beat the Raptors in six games in the East finals last season. Have the Raptors improved since then? Yes, according to Cavs analyst and legend Austin Carr of FOX Sports Ohio. “Defensively, they’re a little better,” Carr told my friends Andy Baskin and Jeff Phelps of 92.3 The Fan.
5. The Raptors want the Cavs to walk the ball up the court and play at a slower pace. Sometimes, Raptors coach Dwane Casey will go “small” by pairing up-and-coming guard Norman Powell with the backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. They beat Milwaukee three straight times in the first round with that lineup.
6. But even then, the Raptors know they can’t match the Cavs’ pace led by James, Kyrie Irving and others.
7. Along with defense, Carr predicted the Raptors will be “a little more motivated and more active” this time around — as they’re still smarting from losing to LeBron and friends last season (and all three regular-season games that mattered this year).
8. Still, if the Cavs are playing their style, and close to 100 percent of their capabilities, no one in the East stands much of a chance. But toward the end of the season and in the first round sweep of Indiana, that has been an issue.
9. The Cavs need to start playing with the edge of a champion. And Irving needs to get back to being Irving. He looked tired against the Pacers and couldn’t shoot straight. Defensively, he was terrible.
10. Also, Carr suggested the Cavs start looking for Love on the low blocks again. They had success getting Love going vs. Indiana. “What concerns me is LeBron was the only one finding Kevin,” Carr said. “Kevin definitely has to be a big part of it.”
11. Carr predicted the Cavs will win in six and advance to the East finals. I’m with AC. It won’t always be pretty, and the Raptors are better than last season. Still, Cavs in six.
12. The game will be televised exclusively on TNT at 7 p.m. FOX Sports Ohio will air both a pre- and postgame show.