We’ve compiled a list of useful facts you need to know before the NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, which will tip off tonight in Cleveland.
— This is the first playoff series between the two franchises, and the first trip to the Conference Finals for the Raptors, who survived Game 7’s against the Pacers and Heat to advance.
— LeBron James is seeking to become the eighth player in NBA history to play in at least six straight Finals, joining Bill Russell (10), Tom Heinsohn (9), Sam Jones (9), K.C. Jones (8), Frank Ramsey (8), Bob Cousy (7) and Satch Sanders (6).
— Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and Raptors guard Cory Joseph are both from Canada. They were teammates in high school at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., and spent one season together at Texas before entering the 2011 NBA Draft.
— The Cavaliers hit 77 three-pointers during their four-game sweep of the Atlanta Hawks. Toronto finished 29th in the NBA in opponent three-point percentage (37.3) during the regular season.
— The Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas is out at least for the first few games of the series with a badly sprained ankle suffered against the Heat. In his place, Toronto has turned to Bismack Biyombo, who has resurrected his career with the Raptors after four modest seasons with the Charlotte Hornets. Biyombo had 17 points and 16 rebounds in Game 7 against Miami.
— The Raptors won two of three games from the Cavaliers in the regular season. Kyle Lowry averaged 31 points on 66 percent shooting, and had the highest player efficiency rating of anyone who played at least 10 minutes per game against the Cavaliers in the regular season
— Kyrie Irving (1), Tristan Thompson (4), Jonas Valanciunas (5), Bismack Biyombo (7), Iman Shumpert (17) and Cory Jospeh (29) were all selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft.
— The Cavaliers’ Richard Jefferson and the Raptors’ Luis Scola, both born in 1980, have aged well and gave their teams unexpected production this season. Jefferson appeared in 74 games and averaged 5.5 points in 17.4 minutes. Scola started 76 games and averaged 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21.5 minutes.
— LeBron James has reached the Conference Finals in eight of his 13 seasons.
— Raptors coach Dwane Casey was Rick Carlisle’s defensive coordinator in 2011, when the Mavericks defeated the Heat in the Finals in six games. After leading a defense that limited both LeBron James to 17.8 points over six games, Casey was hired by the Raptors.
— In 2010, Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin turned down the general manager job with the Denver Nuggets, who eventually hired Masai Ujiri for the position. Ujiri went on to earn NBA Executive of the Year honors with the Nuggets in 2012-13, before taking his current job leading the Raptors.
Source: Pitch London/NBA UK