Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers look to take a 2-0 series lead against the Raptors. Toronto’s trade deadline additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker were a direct response to the Cavaliers’ dominance in the Eastern Conference. To defeat the best, you need the personnel to defeat the best. Toronto was missing a rim protector and wing defender, and was able to add both in lopsided trades at the trade deadline. These two additions will not win the series for Toronto, but they can help them get over the hump if Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan play up to their potential. The “trash bros” backcourt often struggle in the playoffs, but cannot afford to take a single game off in this series if they are going to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron James has been dominant in all five games this postseason, but needs his teammates to pick up the intensity on defense. The Cavaliers have enough offensive firepower to run through the Eastern Conference, but they’ve struggled to defend all season. Toronto will need to exploit their defensive lapses if they want to even the series at one game apiece. This isn’t a must-win game for either team, but the winner will have the home-court advantage in this series.
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs look to rebound against the Rockets after an embarrassing defeat in the first game of this series. The Spurs were punched in the mouth early, and didn’t have the heart to respond. Their defensive effort was poor, and they seemed to give up in the second quarter. Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches in NBA history, and he won’t let his team get away with another lethargic performance. The Rockets were moving the ball and finding open shooters all game, which is the way they need to play to defeat the Spurs. If their shots are falling, they’re nearly impossible to beat. San Antonio has the experience advantage, but they don’t have the personnel to matchup with the Rockets’ pick-and-roll action. Popovich will need to make adjustments including benching Pau Gasol and David Lee when they’re getting exposed defensively. The Spurs cannot afford to lose the first two games of this series in front of their home crowd.