The Toronto Raptors ended the regular season as the Eastern Conference's number one seed, but nobody south of the Canadian border ever considered them the favorites to come out of the east. LeBron James, the best player on the planet even at age 33, has determined the fate of the East over the past eight years. This year is no different. However, the Cleveland Cavaliers' first-round series against the Indiana Pacers exposed some major flaws.

The Cavaliers have real problems

Indiana's defense and Victor Oladipo's emergence as an MVP candidate made the series more competitive than expected. The Pacers could have easily won the series in six if it weren't for some late game heroics from LeBron in Game 5.

The King had to suffer through his first-ever seven-game first-round series [VIDEO]. While the Indiana Pacers matched up well against the Cavs, the matchup with the Raptors might be less fraught with peril [VIDEO]. The Cavaliers beat the Raptors two out of three times in the regular season (they lost three out of four against Indiana). Here are three keys regarding how this matchup might play out.

1. Which defense will hold?

A big reason Toronto lost the season series against Cleveland was the defensive matchups on both sides. The Cavaliers seemed to get the Raptors to play more isolation, something the Raps had been trying to drill out of themselves for the entire season. On the Toronto side, head coach Dwane Casey has favored a switching defense, but LeBron James consistently picks apart defenses that play that style.

The Pacers were able to wear LeBron out because they were able to leave Bojan Bogdanović on an island to deal with James for most of the series. It's uncertain whether the Raptors have the same ability. Rookie OG Anunoby and super athlete Pascal Siakam have all the physical tools, but holding down the NBA's best player for four games could prove to be too much for the inexperienced duo.

2. Which bench mob will show up?

The Raptors have had the deepest bench in the league all year. You might argue that it is the reason they were able to secure the East so decisively. Typically, bench rotations are shortened during the playoffs, but their depth showed against the Washington Wizards in the first round. When you can throw Delon Wright, Pascal Sakam, C.J. Miles, folk hero Fred VanVleet, and Jakob Poeltl into lineups, it's hard to argue with the strategy.

On the other hand, you have the Cavaliers. Rodney Hood has disappointed since joining the team, George Hill is always hurt, Larry Nance doesn't seem to fit what Tyronn Lue wants, and Jeff Green is, well, Jeff Green.

When the Cavs get anything out of these players, they look like the beasts of the east. Most games, though, it feels like they are in a zombie apocalypse, just trying to survive one night at a time. If each team's respective benches play the way they have all year, the Raptors have a distinct advantage. Having said that...

3. How many minutes can LeBron James play?

If the Cavs' bench decides to show up, this could be a shorter series than expected. Let's face it, though, the more likely scenario is that LeBron will have to carry Jose Calderon and JR Smith to the Conference Finals. LeBron could be seen mouthing that he would play the whole game during Game 7 of the first round but ended up having to take some rest during the third quarter due to cramps. He still ended the game with 45 points in 43 minutes, but it's fair to ask how much longer he can continue this pace. If LeBron is able to squeeze out four 40-minute games at a high level, the Cavs have to win each of those. Asking for five or six games like that from LeBron is asking too much.

This should be a close series

LeBron James is running on fumes, and the Raptors have their strongest team in over a decade. But there's still a sense that these Raptors don't have the proverbial "it." LeBron continues to show why any team he's on, including this raggedy bunch, has a chance at winning a championship. If we see DeRozan and Lowry return to their isolation ways, there's no way the Raptors make it to the Conference Finals. And I have a feeling they will.

Prediction: Cavaliers win in six games.