Cavs, Raptors looking to set things straight
Call it a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals consisting of two teams that appear to have taken a step back.
And perhaps that is why the Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors are meeting in the second round this season. Or perhaps everyone else just got better.
Either way, the Cavs won last season's series, 4-2, before moving on to win the first title in franchise history.
And this is the matchup most of the NBA betting sites predicted would be taking place in the second round. The Cavs are the No. 2 seed; the Raptors the No. 3.
But it's how they got here that's a bit of a surprise.
The Cavs completed perhaps the ugliest sweep in franchise history, edging the Indiana Pacers in each of their four first-round games. The Raptors fell behind twice against the Bucks, before winning three straight to close the series, 4-2.
So both Cleveland and Toronto will look to use the second round to catapult to better things.
The good news for the second-seeded Cavs is they will have had more than a week off between rounds. Oh, they also have LeBron James, who rescued them time and time again vs. the Pacers.
The key will be to get Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love going again, too. Neither played well in the final two games, and it could be argued they were at their worst defensively. They sure were offensively.
Instead of getting what they normally do from those two All-Stars, the Cavs rode James, Tristan Thompson and a bench bunch consisting of Deron Williams, Channing Frye, Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert to find ways to win.
They will need more from Irving, Love and J.R. Smith, though, if they hope to get past the Raptors and advance to the Finals for the third straight season.
The winner of this series meets the winner of the Washington-Boston matchup in the Eastern Conference finals.
But I'll have much more on the series as we get closer, including the Amico Report Podcast later Friday.
Below is a look at the series schedule for the first four games. Times and dates for Games 5-7 are TBA.
Game 1 –Monday, May 1: Toronto at Cleveland, 7 p.m. TNT
Game 2 –Wednesday, May 3: Toronto at Cleveland, 7 p.m. TNT
Game 3 –Friday, May 5: Cleveland at Toronto, 7 p.m., ESPN
Game 4 –Sunday, May 7: Cleveland at Toronto, 3:30 p.m., ABC
Game 5 * TBD
Game 6 * TBD
Game 7 * TBD