Jonas Valanciunas unlikely to play in first two games of conference finals

Courtesy of Dan Hamilton, USA Today Sports

The Toronto Raptors head into their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Cleveland Raptors a battered and tired team, having gone the full seven in their first two series.

Starting center Jonas Valanciunas is the most noteworthy injury for the Raptors. He missed the final four games of the Heat series with an ankle injury and is unlikely to go for at least the first two outings against Cleveland:

The 24-year-old center was among the best players at his position during the regular season, averaging 12.8 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field.

He followed that up with a tremendous postseason performance prior to injuring his ankle. In 10 playoff games, the former top-five pick is averaging 15.0 points and 12.1 rebounds.

With Valanciunas sidelined, former first-round bust Bismack Biyombo has upped his game significantly at center. He’s coming off a 17-point, 16-rebound performance in Toronto’s series clinching Game 7 win over Miami on Sunday.

All said, the former lottery pick is averaging 11.0 points and 12.0 rebounds over the past four games.

Despite Biyombo’s stellar recent play, the Raptors are surely going to be short-handed without their starting center. It will definitely be interesting to see how the team utilizes its rotation should Valanciunas remain sidelined deep into the series.