HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Cleveland Cavaliers have always been the clear favorite in the Eastern Conference. At any point in the season, you would have a hard time finding a neutral party who believed that any other East team could stop the Cavs from getting back to The Finals.
Still, the Cavs were always, at best, the third-best team in the league. They were never nearly as good offensively as the Golden State Warriors or nearly as good defensively as the San Antonio Spurs.
But Cleveland has found a new gear in the postseason. The Cavs’ haven’t been a great defensive team in the playoffs, but they haven’t needed to be, because they’ve scored a ridiculous 117 points per 100 possessions as they’ve swept through the first two rounds.
The Cavs have become the most prolific and the most proficient 3-point shooting team in the postseason. The Atlanta Hawks were the league’s best defensive team since Christmas, but couldn’t stop the Cavs’ onslaught in the conference semifinals.
The Toronto Raptors are seemingly just happy to be in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. But there are reasons the Raptors won 56 games, including two of the three they played against the Cavs this season. They were a top-five offensive team with a much-improved defense. They’ve escaped the competitive bottom half of the East bracket and they played their most complete game of the postseason in Game 7 against the Miami Heat on Sunday.
The Cavs have the opportunity to be the first team to ever go 12-0 on its way to The Finals. To keep that from happening, the Raptors will have to find a way to slow down Cleveland’s potent offense.
Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Eastern Conference finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more.
Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25)
Cavs playoff notes:
- Six of their eight games have been within five points in the last five minutes.
- Have taken 42.8 percent of their shots from 3-point range, the highest mark in the playoffs and up from 35.2 percent in the regular season.
- Have shot 46.2 percent on those threes, the best mark in the playoffs and up from 36.2 percent in the regular season.
- Their 25 3-pointers in Game 2 vs. Atlanta were the most ever made in game, playoffs or regular season.
- Recorded assists on 65.2 percent of their baskets against Atlanta, the highest rate in the conference semifinals.
- Have averaged 11.4 shots per game in the last four seconds of the shot clock, more than any other team. But those shots decreased from 13.8 per game in the first round to 9.0 in the conference semis.
- Starting lineup has outscored opponents by 18.2 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among five-man units that have played at least 50 minutes.
- Kyrie Irving (53.8 percent), J.R. Smith (50.8 percent) and Kevin Love (44.4 percent) rank first, second and fourth in 3-point percentage among 14 players who have attempted at least 50 threes in the playoffs.
- Smith’s effective field goal percentage of 70.3 percent is the best mark among players who have attempted at least 50 shots in the playoffs. He has taken 88 percent (61 of 69) of his shots from 3-point range, the highest rate in the postseason by a wide margin.
- Love leads the playoffs with 17 corner 3-pointers, shooting better than 50 percent from both the left (8-for-15) and right (9-for-17) corners. He also leads the postseason with 4.9 second chance points per game.
- Love has shot 6-for-26 (23 percent) in the restricted area, the worst mark among players with 25 shots there.
- The Cavs have averaged just 30.8 points in the paint per game, the lowest mark in the playoffs.
- LeBron James, though, leads the playoffs with 9.5 shots in the restricted area per game and 13.3 points in the paint per game, though he shot just 56 percent in the restricted area in the conference semis after shooting 74 percent there in the first round.
- He did shoot much better from outside the paint vs. Atlanta (43 percent) than he did vs. Detroit (28 percent).
- James leads the playoffs with 42 assists on 3-pointers (to seven different teammates), 24 of them on corner threes.
- Tristan Thompson has grabbed 18.9 percent of available offensive rebounds while he’s been on the floor, the best offensive rebounding percentage in the playoffs.
- Opponents have shot 69.2 percent at the rim when Love has been there to protect it. That ranks as the worst rim protection number among players who have defended at least 5.0 shots per game at the rim.
- See Cavs-Pistons preview for regular season notes and Cavs-Hawks preview for first round notes.
Toronto Raptors (56-26)
Raptors playoff notes:
- Have assisted on only 45 percent of their field goals, the lowest rate among the four teams remaining in the playoffs.
- Have a positive NetRtg in quarters 1, 2 and 4, but have been outscored by 13.4 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter. They’ve won the third quarter just four times in their 14 games.
- Have outscored their opponents by 5.3 points per 100 possessions with Kyle Lowry on the floor and have been outscored by 31.9 with Lowry on the bench. That on-off differential of 37.2 is the third biggest among players who have played at least 100 minutes and the biggest among those remaining in the postseason.
- Have outscored their opponents by 20.4 points per 100 possessions in 114 minutes with Lowry, Cory Joseph and Bismack Biyombo on the floor together.
- Lowry and DeMar DeRozan rank first and third in total drives in the playoffs, but have shot just 33 percent on those drives.
- DeRozan leads the postseason with 146 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.
- Lowry leads the postseason with 45 total deflections and 15 loose balls recovered.
- Biyombo leads the postseason with 54 screen assists.
- Cory Joseph has averaged 6.73 dribbles per touch, most in the playoffs.
- DeRozan leads the playoffs with 11.1 mid-range shots per game.
- Jonas Valanciunas and Biyombo rank first and second in defensive rebounding percentage, having grabbed 33.9 percent and 33.2 percent of available defensive boards, respectively, when they’ve been on the floor.
- See Raptors-Pacers preview for regular season notes and Raptors-Heat preview for first round notes.
- For Cleveland, Irving, Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert all missed the first meeting, and Channing Frye was only with the team for the third meeting.
- For Toronto, Valanciunas missed the first meeting, which was the only game vs. Cleveland in which DeMarre Carroll played.
- 89.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes was the slowest pace played between two teams in the same conference in the regular season.
- Their combined effective field goal percentage of 56.9 percent was the highest in a season series between two teams in the same conference (see below).
- The Cavs shot 50 percent from 3-point range, the best they shot against any opponent in the regular season and the best any team shot against the Raptors. Eleven different Cavs hit threes in the three games, led by Smith’s 14-for-25.
- The Cavs’ current starting lineup was a plus-23, outcoring the Raptors 72-49, in 29 minutes over the last two meetings.
- Lowry’s 31.0 points per game was his highest average vs. any Eastern Conference opponent.
- The Raptors were a plus-30 in 89 minutes with Patrick Patterson on the floor and a minus-46 in 55 minutes with him on the bench.