The Toronto Raptors enter Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals facing elimination against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This is the first time the Raptors are facing elimination in these playoffs before going into a Game 7. After a horrible Game 5 in the Quicken Loans Arena, losing 116-78 to go down 2-3 in the series, the Raptors will be back at home to try to get back to their winning ways. They’ll be playing in the Air Canada Centre, where they’ve won four straight games this year against the Cavaliers.
Jonas Valaciunas is expected to play tonight, even though he still hasn’t fully recovered from his knee injury. In limited minutes in Game 5 he was able to go 4-4 from the field for 9 points, but because of his health it’s unknown if he or Bismack Biyombo will start tonight’s game at 8:30 p.m. EST.
Cage’s Keys To The Game
Strong First Quarter
Winning the first quarter at this point is the most important aspect of the game for the Raptors. In Game 3 and 4, they were able to start off strong and keep their momentum in front of their incredible home crowd.
In Game 5 the Raptors got off to a horrible start, going down 19-37 at the end of the first quarter. They were never able to recover, which isn’t uncommon for them in the playoffs. The Raptors have lost their last six straight games after falling behind at the end of the first 12 minutes. While winning the first quarter has resulted in six straight wins.
It’s up to the All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to get things started for the Raptors. In Game 5 they only combined for 6 of their team’s 17 shots in the first quarter, resulting in 4 points and 4 assists. If the Raptors want to win, DeRozan and Lowry will need to perform like they did in the first 12 minutes of Game 4, where they combined for 11 shots leading to 11 points and 3 assists.
Contain Kevin Love
Kevin Love has never lost a playoff game in America, but he’s 0-2 when he’s up North.
Love really struggled during Game 3 and 4 in the Air Canada Centre, combining for 13 points on 5-23 shooting. That wasn’t the case in Game 5 when he helped the Cavaliers erupt from the start, on his way to 25 points in just over 23 minutes. He was able to be a productive third option by hitting his open shots, which included going 3-4 from 3-point distance.
When he’s able to impact the game, it’s worked to the Cavaliers advantage. In games that Love has scored 20 or more points this year, the Cavaliers are 29-6. The Raptors will need Patrick Patterson to play great defence against Love, since he’s the only one with the agility and length to keep up with him around the wing or down low in the post.
Don’t Let the Cavaliers Get In Transition
The Raptors were able to beat the Cavaliers twice at home, because they controlled the pace and didn’t allow the Cavaliers to find opportunities to attack on the fast break.
In Game 5 they allowed the Cavaliers to score 21 points in transition, a huge difference compared to the 4 points they allowed in Game 3 and 4. The Raptors and Cavaliers are both known for their slow pace style of basketball, making it important that the Raptors don’t give up any quick scoring opportunities and fall behind.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 26, 2016
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have both been taking every opportunity they can get in the playoffs to go coast-to-coast on their opponents. The former has scored 72 transition points, the third most in the playoffs across the league, while the latter is fifth with 61.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
At this point, it’s all about the players that have been able to get you this far in the first place.
Lowry has been clutch these playoffs when the Raptors have needed him most, which will certainly have to be the case tonight when they face elimination. Game 4 in the Air Canada Centre was one of Lowry’s best games of his career, scoring 35 points on 70 per cent shooting, along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
Lowry has looked like a completely different player during Raptors wins and losses. In wins against the Cavaliers, Lowry has averaged 27.5 points on 63.6 per cent shooting and 53.3 per cent shooting from distance. While in losses he’s looked horrible, averaging 10.3 points on 32.5 per cent shooting from the field and 10.5 per cent form beyond the arc.
All stats for this article are from NBA.com
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