5 reasons the Raptors can beat the Cavaliers

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

4. If he can return, Jonas Valanciunas’ size could be a huge factor

No 2015-16 NBA playoff performer has been as surprisingly impressive as Jonas Valanciunas. The Lithuanian big man was putting up some monster statlines, averaging 15 points and 12.1 rebounds in only 28.5 minutes per playoff game. But he sprained his right ankle in Game 3 against Miami, hasn’t played since, and is doubtful to play in Games 1 or 2 against Cleveland.

Ever since the Cavs ditched the Timofey Mozgov starting lineup experiment and went smaller with Tristan Thompson/Channing Frye as their primary big men, they’ve been red hot. But the seven-footer Valanciunas could easily push around Frye in the paint and would still have a size advantage over the scrappy Thompson. The two are among the most effective offensive rebounders in NBA playoff history.

In fact, the Valanciunas vs. Thompson conversations go way back. The Cavs surprisingly took the defensively versatile University of Texas big man with the No. 4 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. With the very next pick, Toronto selected Valanciunas. He didn’t make his way over to the NBA until the 2012-13 season, but he’s been a breakthrough star, when healthy, this postseason. If he can make it back in time for Game 3 and the rest of the series, Toronto has a potentially significant lineup advantage it can use over Cleveland.

Next: 3. Toronto will look to slow down the pace