CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Cavaliers won't know for a few days who'll they'll meet in the Conference Finals. They may not know until Sunday night, if the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat take their series to seven games. In the meantime, we can debate which opponent offers the tougher matchup for the Cavaliers, and, in the end, if it even matters.
The Cavaliers went 1-2 against both the Heat and Raptors during the regular season, with both wins coming at the "Q". This, of course, means nothing. In 4 of those 6 games (two against the Heat, two against the Raptors), David Blatt was still coaching the Cavaliers. They're a different team under Tyronn Lue, who's proven to be far better at inspiring his players, calming the huddle, running his rotations, and diagramming plays. The Cavs needed an adjustment period under Lue, as he handed off his defensive duties to his assistants in order to focus on a high-tempo offense, but as we've seen in these playoffs, it's all come together.
Kyrie Irving missed 3 of the 6 games against the Heat and Raptors, before coming back in late December. By his 6th game back, a January 4th date against the Raptors at the "Q", he was feeling good enough to d rop 25 on Toronto in a Cavs' blowout. And LeBron missed 1 of the 6, the mid-December reunion down in Miami. James rested (that was the morning they flew in from New Orleans and didn't get to the team hotel until 5am).
Now here we are in May, with the Cavaliers cruising into the Conference Finals, the only unbeaten team left in the playoffs, and firing on all cylinders. They're not only the hottest team in the NBA, they're the healthiest. The Heat and Raptors can't say the
same. Heat center Hassan Whiteside, a key to their success, is nursing a knee injury, and Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, their top playoff performer, is dealing with an ankle injury. Whichever team advances to face the Cavaliers will be limping going in.
The question is, with both centers banged up...which backcourt do you fear more: Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic of the Heat, or Kyle Lowery and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors? Both Lowery and DeRozan are shooting 34% in the playoffs, but both can get hot. Lowery
went for 43 points against the Cavs back in February.
But this isn't February. It's May. The stakes are higher, and the stars take over. Which is why it won't matter which team the Cavaliers play. The Heat may give 'em a slightly tougher time, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me to see the Cavs sweep their way
into the NBA Finals.
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