1. The Cavs exposed favorable match ups.
Every team is different which makes every game a unique challenge. The key is being able to size up the opponent and take advantage of the best match ups that are available. In this case, the Cavs executed that to a T. This is also something the Raptors seem to blatantly disregard every season without fail.
Let’s jump right to it, you absolutely cannot under any circumstances assign a rookie to guard LeBron James… period. There is absolutely no way the Raptors thought for one second that they would come close to winning this series with a rookie guarding the greatest of all time.
Given the rookie, OG Anunoby, does have the size and length necessary to guard LeBron, that is still not going to be near enough. The mental game and physicality is going to be more-so what can shake up LeBron at times. The Raptors’ fan base and team in general deserved better with their match up against LeBron than just a rookie who is still learning the ropes no matter who the rookie is.
The Raptors had the second best record in the league and the fifth best defensive ranking this season. LeBron still averaged 34 points per game and looked like he could have scored twice as much. Instead of worrying about regular season accomplishments among other things, the Raptors need to invest in getting a veteran free agent who can at least stick with LeBron half the time.
The most important match up of all in this series, which more than likely ended up being the deciding factor, was Kevin Love against the Raptors’ big men. The Cavs started Love at the center position which put him up against Jonas Valanciunas. This was a major mismatch considering Love’s speed and ability to shoot from behind the arc along with moving the ball. Valanciunas could not check Love in this match up.
Love shined at the center position in this series as he displayed great skill in the post and aggressiveness on the offensive/defensive boards. His great rebounding and decent defensive efforts played a massive role in keeping the Cavs on top.
Love’s great play at the center position was only half the battle in this match up. The other half was his ability to pull Valanciunas away from the basket. This was a major key which allowed LeBron to play as well and as freely as he did. Love’s ability to shoot effectively from behind the arc forced the seven foot Valaniunas away from the rim on defense.
This opened up free driving lanes for LeBron to get through the paint without contest. Valanciunas could not sit back and be back-up help against LeBron because he had to stay outside within reach of Love or else he would pay the price of Love draining a three. Love was much better in this series as he averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds per game.