Game 1 of the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals started off in the best possible way for the Toronto Raptors, who at one point in the first quarter led 17-11. And then, just like the Hawks and Pistons fell victim to in Rounds 1 and 2, the Cavaliers flipped the switch and began scoring at will.
The game was all but over within the first five minutes of the second quarter, and thankfully LeBron James was held to only 28 minutes and 24 points. I was able to split my props for Game 1 as Cleveland's "rest" definitely reigned supreme over their "rust" possibility.
The tone for both teams before Game 2 is what the media and fan bases of each team expected. The Cavaliers are not getting too ahead of themselves, knowing that they have not yet accomplished anything and are talking like they expect a much better effort and fight from a desperate Raptors squad.
The Raptors on the other hand, as one would expect, are not yet ready to concede the series despite being manhandled in Game 1. They were outscored in the paint 56-36 and outrebounded 45-23. The Raptors backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for only 26 points, and neither of them got to the free-throw line. These two all stars will need to be much better in order to keep pace with Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers squad.
It's hard for me to imagine Game 2 ending differently from Game 1. I noticed some things that I liked and didn't like from each team, and I will be looking to exploit these opportunities with some prop bets.
As always, odds and lines are courtesy of Bovada.
Total Team Points
Cleveland Cavaliers "Over" 106 (-115), "Under" 106 (-115)
If the Toronto Raptors are going to be a complete no-show in Game 2 of the ECF, then shame on them.
I understand that the Cavs are coming into Game 2 with their confidence through the roof, but I do not expect the Raptors to just go through the motions and hope for the best. These are grown-ass men who just got their lunch stolen and humiliated, and I expect them to step up to the plate and give it their all in this seemingly must-win game.
While the Cavaliers seemingly have about 80 offensive options they can use to hurt you, the Rap's defense can't possibly play as bad as they did in Game 1. The one thing I was worried about for the Raptors before the start of the season was their 3-point defense. They were able to hold the Cavs to 7-of-20 shooting from beyond the arc. If they can continue that pace and get a bit better at defending inside the paint, the Raptors should be able to keep LeBron and company around the 100-point mark.
No matter the sport, professional athletes hate getting embarrassed, and to a man the entire Raptors team knows they need to be five times better to keep this series at least remotely close. I expect the Raptors to come out pissed off and limit the damage of the high-powered Cavaliers. If this game actually is a blowout, it'll be the Raptors offense that is the cause of that.
Will Bismack Biyombo Record a Double-Double
"Yes" +125 "No" -155
If the Raptors think they can run-and-gun with the Cavs, this series is going to be another short one. That is not what the Raptors are built for, so in order to stay competitive they need to slow the game down and get back to fundamentals.
They need to get the rock down on the blocks to their bigs and go to work. They need to feed off Biyombo's strength and ability around the rim, and only then should they look for the open shots from the perimeter. Don't get me wrong, Biyombo is not Jonas Valanciunas, who has been missed dearly, but the big Congo native does bring energy, heart and rebounding to go along with his 11.2 points per game since replacing Valanciunas in the starting lineup.
Look for "Big Business" to help energize his team with his effort on both the offensive and defensive end of the court and collect his third double-double of the playoffs.
Pick: "Yes" +125
Total Free Throws Made - LeBron James
"Over" 4.5 -115, "Under" 4.5 -115
To make a long story short, LeBron James pretty much does whatever he wants when he's on the court. If he wants to shoot the outside shot, he does it. If he wants to post you up on the blocks, it is almost unfair because he is a freak of nature and strong enough to make even the best of defenders look like pylons. Every time he drives to the rim for a massive dunk, he seemingly gets fouled, and only sometimes they are called.
The Raptors defense has nobody able to guard LeBron. Hell, I don't think anyone on any other team in the league can guard him, but that's not the point. He is bigger, strong and faster than anyone that covers him, and he will use that to his advantage.
I am surprised to see this number at 4.5 and not up around 6.5. LeBron is notoriously a good free-throw shooter, so getting to the line should mean money in my pocket.
I expect James to stay aggressive and get the generous calls from the officials. Take the over.
Pick: "Over" 4.5 -115
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