Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers (-12, 198.5)
The Toronto Raptors (49-46-1 ATS) were big ‘dogs heading into Game 1 of their Eastern Conference final against the Cleveland Cavaliers (42-46-2 ATS). Not only were they facing a double-digit spread, but they were listed as 40/1 longshots to win the title, even though we’re down to four teams.
No one on the Raptors seemed uncomfortable with being written off, and the tenor out of Toronto was that the team would thrive off the disrespect.
“Thrive” is a subjective term, but by any measure, Game 1 was a disaster for the Raps. After jumping out to an early 17-11 lead, the Raptors were outscored 104-67 the rest of the way, ultimately falling 115-84. The 31-point margin of victory was the largest ever for Cleveland in a playoff game.
The Raptors would like to chalk up the loss to fatigue. Unlike the Cavs, who went 8-0 in the first two rounds and had nine days’ rest before Game 1, Toronto had to survive two heated seven-game series.
But there’s only one day of rest for the teams between Games 1 and 2. How much more rested can you reasonably expect Toronto to be?
On top of that, they’re still without center Jonas Valanciunas (ankle). While Cleveland didn’t feast down low in Game 1, they’ll certainly have the advantage in the post with Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson matching up against the likes of Bismack Biyombo and Patrick Patterson.
Biyombo is a feisty player who was supposed to keep the Raps competitive on the glass, but he had just four total rebounds in the game, and the entire team only managed four offensive boards.
Even if they are able to compete in the rebounding department, it won’t matter if the Cavs keep hitting shots at the same rate. Cleveland hit at a 55-percent clip in Game 1 and LeBron James was a near-perfect 11 of 13 from the floor. The scary part: there’s room for improvement. The Cavs were only 35-percent from beyond the arc (7-20), well below their 45-percent playoff average.
While fatigue undoubtedly played a part in the blowout, Game 1 was really a showcase of the talent gap between the sides. When James and Kyrie Irving are at their best, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are overmatched. Neither of the pair was even able to earn a free-throw attempt in Game 1.
I expect Toronto to come out swinging again, but they don’t have the horses to keep up over 48 minutes, especially with Valanciunas out. I’ll lay the 12.
Pick: Cavaliers (-12).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)