**$20 TUESDAY** Rogers' 10* Coach's Clinic >> Had Celtics Last Night!
Cleveland vs. Toronto,
05/01/2018 20:00 EDT,
Score: 113 - 112
Point Spread: +6½/-105 Cleveland
The set-up: LBJ led the Cavs to a first-round victory over the Indiana Pacers but if took seven games. James had 45 points in the Game 7 clincher (105-101) and he's now a perfect 13-0 in opening round playoff series in his career. However, the Cavs hardly looked dominating, as the Pacers covered SIX of the seven games. LeBron averaged 34.4 PPG in the series, with only Kevin Love (11.4) joining in in double digits in scoring for the seven-game set. The Toronto Raptors are the East's top seed (won a franchise record 59 games this regular season) but also didn't have an easy time of it in the first round. Toronto took a 2-0 lead over the Wizards but WWashingtonm won Games 3 and 4 at home, before the Raptors closed them out in six games. The Cavaliers have knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs in each the last two postseaons, as the Cavaliers won the conference final in six games over the Raptors in 2016 and swept a semifinals meeting last season en route to their third consecutive conference crown. However, the Raptors are finally the favored team and hope to play like it when the teams begin their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup Tuesday night with Game 1 in Toronto. DeMar DeRozan, who averaged 26.7 PPG vs. Washington, feels that his team is finally ready to topple Cleveland, even if the roster is roughly the same. "Sometimes you have to keep it together, because there's nobody better than the guys you've failed with," DeRozan told reporters. "You might not have accomplished the goal, you do understand how to regroup."
Cleveland: LBJ played 41.2 minutes per game in the series with Indiana, after playing all 82 games during the regular season. James, who admitted after Sunday's win that he was "burnt right now," produced 29.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 8.0 eight assists in three matchups with the Raptors during the regular season plus averaged 36 points in last year's sweep of the Raptors.
Toronto: DeRozan (26.7 & 4.8 APG) and Lowry (17.2 & 8.3 APG) need to play great plus Toronto would love to see reserves Wright (10.7) and Miles (9.3) continue their solid play off the bench. Center Valanciunas (13.5 & 9.3) posted good numbers but played little during the fourth quarter for most of the series. PG Ibaka was the Game 1 star (23 & 12) but averaged a "missing in action" 6.0 PPG over the series' last five games. Toronto can't afford that.
The pick: Toronto figures to have a big advantage when the teams go to their benches and the Raptors' reserves were given a big boost with the return of guard Fred VanVleet for Game 6 against Washington (he missed four games in the series due to a shoulder injury. Cleveland knows all about VanVleet's ability to provide a spark, as the second-year pro averaged 15.7 points and five assists in 25.3 minutes off the bench against the Cavaliers this season. However, this series is still about "King James," and remarkably he is showing no ill effects of his heavy workload. He's like the "Energizer Bunny." James became the NBA's career playoff leader in steals and minutes played during the first round, after he became the points leader in 2017. James ranks first in points (6,404), first in minutes played (9,415), first in steals (399), third in assists (with 1,543), sixth in games played (224), seventh in rebounds (1,993) and 19th in blocks (216) in the all-time playoff ranks. Make LBJ (I mean Cleveland) a 10* play.