The Cavaliers are coming off a decisive home win over the Boston Celtics and now travel to Toronto to take on the league's third most northern team (just don't tell them). With the Cavs possessing a 2-1 season series lead, they have a chance to close out the series.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (38-24) vs. Toronto Raptors (38-22)
When: 7:30 pm est.
Where: Air Canada Centre - Toronto, Ontario
Where on my eyeballs: Fox Sports Ohio, TSN 2 & TSN 4 for those north of the border.
Enemy blog: Raptors HQ
The Cavaliers were back to their old ways after the return of their All Star point guard, while the Toronto Raptors await the return of theirs. Kyle Lowry has sat out the last two games due to various injuries and likely will be forced to rest again Wednesday against the Cavs.
The Raptors have been in a major slump lately as their top three scorers have struggled to score in an efficient manner. DeMar Derozan, Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams all shot below 35% for the month of February, which is not a recipe for success. While the team was able to end their five game losing streak Monday against the Philadelphia 76ers, they failed to establish Jonas Valanciunas who only attempted two shots on the night. While their hot start to the season still has them sitting in the second seed, the streaking Cavs appear poised to overtake them in the standings.
The Cavs were, of course, able to rest their starters a fair amount during their thirty one point evisceration of the Celtics and shouldn't show too many ill-effects of playing in a back to back.
Keys to the game:
- Keeping the Raptors away from the rim and off of the free throw line is typically the best way to stymie their offense. For all of DeRozan's deficiencies on offense, he can get to the line at an elite level. If you can slow down his free throw rate, it typically results in lazy long twos or other forced shots.
- Timofey Mozgov will need to prevent Jonas Valanciunas from establishing himself early-on. Toronto likes to try and get him going early and if they are successful, it typically pays dividends on both sides of the court. If Jonas doesn't get his touches, he typically stops moving around on offense and quits on defense. He can be a beast when he's engaged, but his weaknesses are easy to exploit at this stage of his career.
- Exploiting the nightmare matchups. Kyle Lowry is a very good defender for a point guard. But without him, Toronto will need to pray that Kyrie Irving won't attack Greivis Vasquez too much. Amir Johnson has also struggled defending stretch fours, so the Cavaliers have two players in a position to attack both Achilles heels of the Raptors.
- LeBron James vs. James Johnson is the new version of James vs. Stephenson. So that should be fun to watch.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction:
The Cavaliers defeat the reeling Raptors in convincing fashion and I'm not able to speak to my friends and family for a few days. Life behind enemy lines is always more fun when the Cavs are winning though. Final score: 109-84.