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Raptors vs. Cavaliers 2017, NBA playoffs: Schedule, scores, predictions, and news

Cleveland beat Toronto just like last year, only this time in a sweep

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Raptors and Cavaliers is happening a round earlier this time. Is there any reason to believe we’ll get a different result?

The Raptors have a lot of ground to make up to reach that point. Toronto technically pushed Cleveland to six games last year, but that result flatters them. They did not compete whatsoever in Games 1, 2, and 5, and went down to the wire in their two victories in Games 3 and 4. There’s a reason LeBron James said that series didn’t rise to the level of other adverse situations he’s faced.

But this isn’t the same Raptors team that lost last season. Toronto made two critical moves at the trade deadline, acquiring Serge Ibaka to fill their power forward hole and P.J. Tucker to provide toughness on the wing.

Those acquisitions directly impact two areas the Cavaliers exploited last season. They tortured Toronto’s poor perimeter defenders with James, then took advantage of the Raptors’ inability to cover stretch lineups in the second and fourth quarters. Tucker at least gives Toronto a fighting chance to contain James, while Ibaka offers the mobility to cover the perimeter when he slides to center.

That doesn’t mean we should consider the Raptors favorites, not when James has won every Eastern Conference playoff series since 2010. Cleveland still has an unstoppable offense and is coming off a four-game sweep, while the Raptors struggled to put away a pesky Bucks team.

But the Raptors made moves to ready themselves for this very moment. It may have come a round earlier than they hoped, but now’s the time to strike.

Series schedule

Game 1: Cavaliers 116, Raptors 105

Game 2: Cavaliers 125, Raptors 103

Game 3: Cavaliers 115, Raptors 94

Game 4: Cavaliers 109, Raptors 102

Key matchup: Kyle Lowry vs. Kyrie Irving

The Raptors need Lowry to shoot the ball well to have any chance to win this series. That tends not to happen enough in the playoffs, but Lowry rebounded from a couple rough games to play better near the end of the Milwaukee series. Irving’s poor defense gives Lowry every opportunity to dominate, but he didn’t really do it last year and it’s tough to assume it’ll happen given his playoff history.

Irving, on the other hand, will get buckets. The Raptors have several players to throw at him, but it won’t matter. The question is whether Lowry can get those buckets back on the other end.

Predictions

SB Nation’s Raptors vs. Cavaliers predictions

STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
STAFFER WINNING TEAM GAMES SERIES MVP
Paul Flannery Cavaliers 6 LeBron James
Mike Prada Cavaliers 7 LeBron James
Tom Ziller Cavaliers 7 LeBron James
Whitney Medworth Cavaliers 5 LeBron James
Kristian Winfield Cavaliers 6 LeBron James
Tim Cato Cavaliers 7 Kyrie Irving
Zito Madu Cavaliers 5 Kyrie Irving
Fear the Sword Cavaliers 6 Kyrie Irving
Raptors HQ Cavaliers 6 LeBron James