Cavaliers advance to NBA Finals with win over Raptors: Takeaways
Either Oklahoma City or a rematch with Golden State awaits
The Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals as Eastern Conference champions, eliminating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 on Friday night to win the conference finals four games to two. It caps an impressive Eastern Conference playoffs run for the Cavs in which they only lost two games (sweeping both the Pistons and Hawks), and sends LeBron James to his sixth straight Finals and seventh overall.
For the Raptors, they managed two wins against a superior opponent, won the most games in franchise history (56), and advanced the farthest they have in the NBA playoffs in franchise history. Their road through the East wasn't impressive, but they made it, and it was a learning experience, a step forward for a team in terms of respect and legitimacy.
Here's what you should know as the Cavaliers advance over the Raptors to the NBA Finals.
1. The Cavs did what they were supposed to
But it's still worth honoring. The Cavaliers were the heavy favorites in this series, and exerted their dominance early in a 2-0 series lead. Their slip in Games 3 and 4 was seen as some sort of significant failure, but the Raptors really played well and some strange things happened to grease the wheels in Game 4.
In the end, the Cavaliers' road through the East was pure domination, and it was expected the whole year through. Still, consecutive Finals appearances is impressive, and they're in much better position to truly challenge for the title this time around, no matter who comes out of the West.
For James, six straight Finals is an incredible streak that hasn't been matched in the modern era. But he's 2-4 in those title series. That's a bit of stain, fair or not.
2. Toronto had a great season
They struggled vs. the Pacers, but they won. They struggled vs. the Heat (who were without Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside), but they won. They struggled in the first two games vs. the Cavs, but they won two in Toronto.
They were a tremendous regular-season team, and this felt like a learning experience. DeMar DeRozan is a free agent, but the rest of the roster isn't going anywhere. Masai Ujiri has roster flexibility, a top-10 draft pick, and one additional pick to work with this month. They can get better. They have improved every year. This run was tremendous for Kyle Lowry's experience, even with his struggles, and a young team learned what it takes.
Meanwhile, Dwane Casey cemented himself as the coach of this franchise and the future remains bright for Toronto.
The crowd was incredible; they stayed and chanted loud for twenty minutes after the game. This fanbase is passionate, the roster is young, versatile, and their management is as good as it gets. Great run, despite the struggles in the first two rounds.
Now, about DeMar DeRozan's free agency ...
3. All the Cavs showed up. Kevin Love didn't disappear this time, following up his 25-point Game 5 with 20 points in Game 6, along with 12 boards. James had a very prototypical 33 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, one steal and three blocks in a road closeout game, and it doesn't even register as one of his greatest performances.
Kyrie Irving's 30 points were great, but his nine assists were just as important. J.R. Smith made shots, and those four players had 87 percent of the Cavs' total points in Game 6.
4. Shooting was an issue. Six different Raptors went 0 for 1 and the Cavaliers outpaced Toronto by 24 points from deep. Power forward and floor stretching are going to be priorities for the Raptors. They got big games from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, finally for a consecutive performance, but the supporting cast that carried Toronto in the first and second rounds couldn't keep pace with the Cavs.
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