NBA playoff previews: How the teams in the Cavaliers-Raptors and Spurs-Rockets series match up
A look at how the teams match up in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference and Western Conference playoff series that start Monday:
2. CLEVELAND 51-31 (Home: 31-10; road: 20-21)
3. TORONTO 51-31 (Home: 28-13; road: 23-18)
Season series: Cavaliers won, 3-1.
Key stats: The Cavaliers averaged a playoff-low 4.5 fastbreak points per game versus Indiana; the Raptors are the only East playoff team that ranked in the top 10 for offense and defense this season.
Outlook: This might be the Cavaliers’ toughest East challenge. It is more than a redo of last year’s conference finals. Cleveland’s in-season bench revamping added Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams and Kay Felder. Toronto is better suited for the physical challenge after adding Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker on defense and having Jonas Valanciunas, who was out injured during last year’s series. A healthier DeMarre Carroll combines with Tucker’s strength and Ibaka’s length to give different looks to LeBron James, who averaged 32.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.0 blocks in the first round with 54% shooting. Cleveland needed it with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love each shooting less than 42%. Toronto star Kyle Lowry must improve from 39% career playoff shooting. He shot 43% in the opening round against the Milwaukee Bucks, a series that lasted six games..
Prediction: Cavaliers in seven.
SCHEDULE (times PDT)
Game 1 Monday at Cleveland, 4 p.m.
Game 2 Wednesday at Cleveland, 4 p.m.
Game 3 Friday at Toronto, 4 p.m.
Game 4 May 7 at Toronto, 12:30 p.m.
Game 5* May 9 at Cleveland, TBD
Game 6* May 11 at Toronto, TBD
Game 7* May 14 at Cleveland, TBD
2. SAN ANTONIO 61-21 (Home: 31-10; Road: 30-11) vs.
3. HOUSTON 55-27 (Home: 30-11; Road: 25-16)
Season series: Spurs won, 3-1.
Key stats: The Spurs averaged a playoff-low 11.3 turnovers in the first round against Memphis; the Rockets averaged a playoff-high 18.4 second-chance points.
Outlook: The story lines stir the series. There is the style contrast of the methodical, mid-range Spurs and the rim-or-three Rockets. There is Houston’s James Harden in another MVP candidate duel, going from Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook to San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. There is the 200-mile proximity of teams that have not met in the playoffs since 1995. There is Mike D’Antoni running again into Gregg Popovich, whose Spurs eliminated D’Antoni’s famed Phoenix teams in 2005, 2007 and 2008. The series pace will be an uptick from the crawl San Antonio had with Memphis. The Spurs went 9-3 over the past three seasons against Houston, but this season’s series included three two-point games. Houston wants to fire 30-plus threes per game, but the Spurs allowed a league-low 23.7 three-point attempts per game this season. The Rockets survived on paint scoring against Oklahoma City while shooting 28% on threes. Harden went 12 for 50 from beyond the arc and will not get better space against Danny Green or Leonard.
Prediction: Spurs in six.
SCHEDULE (times PDT)
Game 1 Monday at San Antonio, 6:30 p.m.
Game 2 Wednesday at San Antonio, 6:30 p.m.
Game 3 Friday at Houston, 6:30 p.m.
Game 4 May 7 at Houston, 6 p.m.
Game 5* May 9 at San Antonio, TBD
Game 6* May 11 at Houston, TBD
Game 7* May 14 at San Antonio, TBD
Go beyond the scoreboard
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