By Brandon Easler
You had to figure that going in to a Game 7, LeBron would make sure to leave his imprint on the game, and did he ever. LeBron finished with 45 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals, and his 45 points were third most ever by a player in a Game 7. James has also won 5 straight Game 7’s after losing the first two in his career. The Cavs were 4-0 in the series when LeBron scored more than 30 points, which shows just how reliant they are on him to win games. However, the next challenge will be a lot tougher as the Raptors are a totally different beast (no pun intended) than the Pacers.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, LeBron leads all scorers in the playoffs averaging 34.4 PPG. However, the next closest player on his team is Kevin Love at FIFTY-EIGHTH. Yes, the second-best player on the Cavs is averaging a measly 11.4 PPG and he is the only other Cavalier averaging double figures. Adding on to how terrible the supporting cast was in the series, it was the second-worst shooting performance a LeBron supporting cast had had in a series at 38.8 percent (first was the 2015 Finals when they shot 37.5 percent). It was also the first time in a playoff series that none of LeBron’s teammates scored over 20 points. All of these stats blow my mind, and I find it insane that LeBron can still win a series all by himself.
The rest of the Cavs will look to put the first-round behind them, as that is pretty much all they can do at this point because the Raptors are a much better team than the Pacers. The Cavs have also eliminated them two consecutive seasons, so the Raptors could be looking for some revenge in this series. While the Pacers only really had one star in Oladipo which allowed the Cavs to run two players at him constantly, the Raptors are not as one dimensional. Both Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan can expose the Cavs defense in many ways, and the play of George Hill and J.R. Smith on defense will be critical in this series.
In order for the Cavs to win this series a few things must happen. First, someone needs to average anywhere from 15-20 PPG (I am looking at you Kevin Love), along with at least three to four role players averaging over 10 PPG. Second, LeBron’s minutes must decrease at least a little. He averaged 41 minutes per game in the Indiana series, and it would have been higher barring a Pacer blowout in Game 6. LeBron needs to get about 8 minutes of rest a game if the Cavs want a full-strength LeBron to carry this broken-down team to the Finals. Lastly, LeBron needs to average a triple-double or close to it in this series if the Cavs want to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. If these things happen, I think the Cavs can beat the Raptors in 6 or 7 games. However, if the Cavs looked like they did in the first-round I believe the Raptors could make quick work of the Cavs and send LeBron looking for a new team this summer.
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