(AP Photo/Darron Cummings). Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, right, and Kyrie Irving celebrate after Cleveland defeated the Indiana Pacers 106-102 to win Game 4 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 23, 2017, in Indianapolis.
(AP Photo/Morry Gash). Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan drives against Milwaukee Bucks' Greg Monroe during the first half of game 6 of an NBA first-round playoff series basketball game Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Milwaukee.
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -
1. Be On Guard
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry make up one of the best guard tandems in the NBA, and after taking the Cavs to six games in last year's conference finals, will not be overwhelmed in this series. DeRozan exploded for 33 points in the Raptors' Game 4 win over the Bucks in Round 1, and Toronto cruised from there. They were at their best in that series playing small ball. We'll see how quickly head coach Dwane Casey shifts to that lineup.
2. Get Defensive
Once again all eyes are on Kyrie Irving, who will give the Cavs more than enough offensively but needs to step it up defensively against Lowry. Lowry's PPG dropped against the Bucks, but he'll look to bump them back up against Irving. Defense is all about desire. Kyrie can dig in and do it when he wants to. He'll need to in this series.
3.Set The Tone
The Cavaliers are coming off a week-long break, and while Tyronn Lue works them hard in practice, it's certainly not the same as game conditions. That said, the break helps the Cavs, especially LeBron, who logs more minutes than just about every other player in the league. Can the Cavaliers, coming off this break, jump on the Raptors in Game 1? Toronto hasn't won a series opener in 16 years. Let's keep the streak alive.
4. Stopping The Serge
This isn't the same Raptors team that we saw a year ago in the playoffs. Power forward Serge Ibaka and small forward P.J. Tucker came aboard mid-season and made this team tougher defensively. Of course, the Cavs aren't the same team, either. Delly, who was a big factor in last year's matchup, is long gone, but Deron Williams was a key factor in the Round 1 sweep of the Pacers, and Kyle Korver has to heat up again, right?
5. Pass The Test
The Raptors, in my opinion, offer the toughest test in the East. Are they tough enough to upset a LeBron-led team? Not likely. But this could be a long series for the Cavs, and in the end, that could be a good thing for a team that, in the words of G.M. David Griffin, thrives on adversity.