The number two seeded Cleveland Cavaliers are gearing up to face the third seeded Toronto Raptors in the second round. This matchup could be closer than one would initially think.

The Raptors have improved their defence since these two teams met in last year’s postseason. The additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J Tucker at the trade deadline were more than likely made for this matchup. Ibaka will be matched up with Kevin Love for a good portion of the series. Ibaka will need to make Love a non-factor in this series, which is very possible seeing how it was achieved for most of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

As for Tucker, he will have to contribute to guarding the best player in the world, LeBron James. In the playoffs LeBron is a different breed as he has proven many times. With that being said one can not stop him, only contain him.

Toronto should try multiple different defenders on the All-Star forward throughout the series. Even in a single game the Raptors should try a few assignments on James, because if he realises his defender’s weakness, he will exploit it. Toronto have many players that can guard James, at least for a few possessions, including; DeMarre Carroll, Norman Powell, Patrick Patterson, and DeMar DeRozan. These names (including Tucker and Ibaka) should all play at least a few minutes guarding LeBron, this would be Toronto’s best chance of slowing down LeBron.

For this series to be a close one Toronto’s backcourt must be at their best for every single game, which is not something they have been great at in the postseason. We know what Kyrie Irving and LeBron will bring, but no one is ever sure about Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The Raptors go as far as their backcourt can take them, and if they continue their inconsistency they are bound for a second round exit.

With all that being said the Raptors took this team to six games last year with a much worse roster. Although the two games they won were mainly because of Bismack Biyombo, (now a member of the Orlando Magic) Ibaka is capable of bringing that kind of defensive presence. Toronto will need him, Lowry, and especially DeRozan to be playing at they highest level every game to make this a competitive series.

This second round series looks to be very interesting, Toronto need their whole team to play at their best to win against the defending champions. For Cleveland they need Love to play like he has all year and stay healthy. If the ‘Big Three’ are all playing their best for Cleveland, the Raptors have a very slim chance.

Can Cleveland cruise past the Raptors? or will they be up for the challenge and maybe even a huge upset? We just have to wait and see what this series will bring.

Prediction: Cleveland in 5

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