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In the two games after Thomas was traded to the Lakers, the Cavs won 132-129 and 122-106.

After the Boston Celtics loaded up with All-Star talent in the form of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coupled with lottery draft picks Jaylen Brown from last season and Jason Tatum from the 2017 draft, it was considered a two-team race for Eastern Conference supremacy with the other preeminent power being LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers came into the playoffs extremely confident, and their confidence has allowed them to push the Cavaliers to the brink.

Is it me or have we seen this movie before?

After a hard-fought seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers had little more than 48 hours to rest their bodies and prepare the game plans for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Toronto Raptors.

James is now averaging 54.8 FanDuel points per game this season.

He may have pushed himself to exhaustion by game seven, but James was flat-out incredible throughout much of the series. On Friday night, the Raptors trusted their season-long identity of ball-movement and depth to squeeze the life out of the Wizards by outscoring them 29-14 in the fourth quarter.

He also put down the shot of the series, and for LeBron and the Cavs, the play of the season.


With the return of Fred VanVleet the Raptors bench will easily outmatch the Cavs. He averaged 41.1 minutes per game in the series after leading the National Basketball Association with 36.9 minutes per game during the regular season. Throw in the Indians' Game 5 defeat of the Blue Jays down the street and you have three seasons in the past three years in which a Toronto team watched glumly as a Cleveland team celebrated north of the border. Bet the Cleveland Cavaliers -5.5 over the Indiana Pacers in game 7.

Thompson, who had played 24 total minutes in the first six games, made his first start since March 28 and scored 15 points with 10 rebounds in a season-high 35 minutes. Instead of giving him a bit of room to play conservative defense, they would make it a point to lean into James and give him contact whenever possible. Chris Paul tallied 17 points, six assists and four steals for the Rockets, who will host Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Unlike the last couple of years, though, the Cavaliers are at their most vulnerable state and the Pacers just stripped them off their air of invincibility.

"It was big", Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue said. DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors' leading scorer in this year's postseason. They can not lose in the first round and expect to keep LeBron James. But Toronto's second unit was even better - finishing fourth overall at 41.8 ppg (first in the league after January 1 at 44.3).

TORONTO (AP) - TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors seem to have everything lined up in their favor heading into their postseason matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Outlook: The Raptors evolved offensively and improved their bench to be better equipped for this matchup than in their last two playoff exits to the Cavaliers. LeBron will need to have a heroic performance in game 7 if he is going to lead his team to victory. He had played every second of the first half and had 26 points by intermission, but the stubborn Pacers sliced a 14-point deficit to 76-74 entering the final period. Larry Nance Jr. and Kevin Love appear to be playing through bruises that are affecting their games.


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