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Strickland: "Defining Moment" For Raptors

Toronto must answer the question: If not now, then when?

May 01, 2018 - 9:47 am

For all of the Toronto Raptors’ successes this season – best record in the East, best home record in the NBA – they know that they will ultimately be judged by what happens in their second-round series against Cleveland. Can they beat the Cavs? Can they limit LeBron James?

“That’s going to be the key,” 17-year NBA veteran Rod Strickland said on Taz & The Moose, “but LeBron has been able to kind of put everything together so far in these playoffs. He’s kind of done everything.”

James averaged 34.4 points, 10.0 rebounds and 7.7 assists against Indiana, willing the Cavs to a seven-game series win.

“I’m sure Toronto, they will scheme and try to take the ball out of his hands and make it hard on him,” Strickland said. “But he’s a great passer if you double-team him and to get his guys easy shots. But somebody’s going to have to step up. Whether that’s George Hill, or Rodney Hood or Kevin Love, they’re going to have to have a couple guys step up and help LeBron. He’s done a greta job. He’s been incredible so far with basically just controlling the game and controlling the tempo. But I think he’s going to need some help this series.”

James has played in seven consecutive NBA Finals. The Raptors have never played in the NBA Finals and are 2-8 against the Cavs in the last two postseasons.

Who has more pressure right now?

“I think there’s pressure on both, but if I had to guess, I would think Toronto,” Strickland said. “I think they’ve come and laid an egg a lot in previous playoff series. I think this is a defining moment for their two superstars. They have to come through. But now they have a lot of help. Their reserves have been great and they’ve been good all year, so they’ve been able to help Lowry and DeRozan. I think they have more help. I think it’ll be an interesting series.

“I think Cleveland is capable of winning it,’ Strickland said. “I think Toronto, definitely the pressure is on for the two superstars and the organization. This is a defining moment for what they are and what they’ll be in the future. Game 1 is more important for Toronto. I think it’s must-win for them. If Cleveland can come out and beat them in Game 1, I think that puts a lot of pressure on those guys.”