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Friday night in the NBA: Toronto Raptors fighting for life
Can the Cavaliers go up three games against the Raptors?
By Dan Favale
Toronto Raptors (+2.5) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (-2.5)
There's not much to say about the Toronto Raptors' situation at the moment. They're down 2-0 and have lost each of their first two meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers by a combined 33 points.
Though they received efficient offensive performances from Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and and Jonas Valanciunas in Game 2, they have yet to figure out how to hang with the Cavaliers on the less glamorous end. They allowed 125 points on Wednesday night, letting Cleveland hit 18 of its 33 three-pointers.
Head coach Dwane Casey clearly wants to get Valanciunas involved, but he has to pick between him or DeMar DeRozan at this point. Both of them cannot be on the floor at once. They're too much of a defensive liability.
Maybe—maybe—the Raptors could get away with it if DeRozan was finding his stride on the offensive end. But he was 2-of-11 from the field in Game 2, and the Cavaliers have no bones about leaving him open from beyond the arc. They're daring him to shoot, and he won't. And if he's not scoring, he's not impacting the game. He can do some playmaking, but his defense is suspect. There's no sense going out of your way to stash him when he's not excelling in his area of strength.
Casey should consider running smaller in Game 3—a lot smaller. What's there to lose? What the Raptors are doing now isn't working. The least they can do is try forcing one of Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love out of the game. Going super small, with Norman Powell at the 4, should at least help them go punch for punch with Cleveland.
Look, the Raptors have been here before—last season, in fact. They fell behind 2-0 to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, then came storming back to win each of the next two games. They have the ability to win a couple in a row.
But, again, we're in one of those situations where we don't have a reason to bet against the Cavaliers. Playing in Toronto isn't enough. The Raptors have looked like the inferior team four times over thus far, and it's safe to say Cleveland will be smart enough to take last year's two-game losing streak in the Eastern Conference Finals to heart.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-2.5)
Houston Rockets (-4.5) vs. San Antonio Spurs (-4.5)
The San Antonio Spurs received some really bad news after their Game 2 victory over the Houston Rockets: Tony Parker is done for the year with a leg injury.
This, quite obviously, isn't good. Parker isn't the star he once was, but he is the Spurs' second-most valuable playmaker. He had regained some of his offensive swag prior to injury, and he's someone San Antonio can turn to in times of need, when the game is close, the possession is crucial and the team cannot afford a turnover.
Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili will all have to pitch in as primary ball-carriers in his absence. Though they're more than capable, it's hard to know what we should expect out of the Spurs' offense as result.
San Antonio is pumping in more than 115 points per 100 possessions without Parker on the court during the postseason—a top-tier mark. But a few minutes here and there is different from an entire game. Parker was averaging more than 26 minutes per night, and the Spurs have to divvy that up somehow without suffering noticeable regression.
And you know what? We should bet on them doing just that. They have the depth to combat his absence on offense, and he wasn't doing anything for them on defense. As long as the Spurs don't ask Leonard to shoulder too much of the additional responsibility, thereby wearing him out, they should be just fine.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-4.5)
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