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Eastern Conference Semifinals Between the Raptors and the Cavaliers: What You Need to Know


• The Cavaliers and Raptors are meeting in the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Cleveland defeated Toronto in the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals and the 2017 Eastern Conference Semifinals. This is the first time that the Raptors will be the higher seed and have home-court advantage against the Cavaliers. 

• Cleveland won the season series 2-1 behind an aggressive LeBron James, who averaged 11.7 free throw attempts, his highest mark against any team. James was in attack mode against Indiana in the first round of the playoffs, averaging 11.0 free throw attempts on his way to 34.4 points per game.

• LeBron James has advanced to the second round for the 13th consecutive season, tied with Bill Russell for the second-longest streak in NBA history. Robert Horry holds the record of 16 straight seasons (1993-2008).

• LeBron James is the all-time playoff leader in points, steals and free throws made. He ranks second in field goals made and three-pointers made. He is also third in assists and seventh in rebounds. James enters this series with 200 career 20-point games in the playoffs, the most in NBA history.  

• The Cavaliers began the last two postseasons 10-0, the only team ever to reach that mark in back-to-back years. This year, they lost their first game of the playoffs and needed the full seven games to oust the Pacers.

• Last season’s playoff loss to the Cavaliers prompted changes for the Raptors, who installed a faster offense predicated on ball movement and three-point shooting. Toronto ranked third in three-pointers made (up from 21st last season) and sixth in assists (up from 30th last season). Behind their new-look offense and the NBA’s best bench as measured by advanced statistics, Toronto finished with the best record in team history and earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time since joining the NBA in 1995.

• Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Cleveland’s Kevin Love recently opened up about their mental health struggles. Love credited DeRozan with giving him the courage to speak about his issues. Both players were moved by the positive response that they received from players and fans. DeRozan and Love have participated in a PSA that will launch on May 1 (the same day as Game 1) for the start of Mental Health Awareness Month.

• Cavaliers guard Jose Calderon (Spain) spent his first seven-plus seasons with Toronto, including the 2008-09 season, when he shot an NBA-record 98.1 percent (151-for-154) from the free throw line. Calderon is the all-time franchise leader in assists and free throw percentage and ranks third in games played. 

• DeMar DeRozan has described Jose Calderon as “one of my favorite teammates of all time.” DeRozan credits Calderon with mentoring him and giving him confidence as a young player.  

• Jose Calderon and Raptors forward Serge Ibaka won a silver medal with Spain at the 2012 London Olympics.

• Toronto’s rotation of big men consists of five international players from five different countries: starters Serge Ibaka (Republic of the Congo) and Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania), along with reserves Jakob Poeltl (Austria), Lucas Nogueira (Brazil) and Pascal Siakam (Cameroon).

• Toronto’s Delon Wright, who recorded two 18-point games against Washington in the first round, epitomizes the front office’s recent success. Wright, the 20th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, got some seasoning in the NBA G League, gradually increased his role and is now an integral part of the rotation. Jakob Poeltl (ninth pick in 2016), Pascal Siakam (27th pick in 2016) and Fred VanVleet (undrafted in 2016) are on a similar track.

• Cleveland’s Kyle Korver has been playing with a heavy heart following the sudden death of his younger brother on March 20. He came up big against the Pacers with 18 points in Game 4 and 19 points in Game 5.  

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