Fresh off a dismantling of the New York Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers travel north to face their first real test of the season in the Toronto Raptors. This will be a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals. Last season the Cavs went 1-4 at the Air Canada Centre, including playoffs. They will undoubtedly look to improve on that record against one of the best in the Eastern Conference.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
When: 7:00 pm
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Canada
Where on my eyeballs: ESPN
The Raptors, like the Cavs, largely have the same roster as last season. Their biggest addition might be a healthy DeMarre Carroll, as the three-and-D forward struggled with various injuries throughout last year.
The one area of roster turnover they have experienced has been with their big man rotation. Luis Scola and Bismack Biyombo are no longer with the team, replaced by Jared Sullinger and first round rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl. Unfortunately for the Raptors, Sullinger is out for the next three months due to foot surgery, meaning they only have two proven players at the power forward and center positions.
Pascal Siakam got the start at power forward in the Raptors season opener, but head coach Dwane Casey has mentioned the starting rotation will not be set in stone. I would imagine going against Kevin Love will cause Toronto to seriously consider playing Patterson over the rookie Siakam.
Regardless of who Toronto goes with, they will likely have difficulty containing Cleveland’s pick and roll. Valanciunas has been a liability defensively to this point in his career, and it would be unreasonable to expect the rookies to execute defensively at a level that can stop the Cavs.
Cleveland attempted 35 three pointers in their season opener. The pace, passing, and shooting of the Cavs was truly impressive. Putting Channing Frye into the rotation for Timofey Mozgov had a huge impact for the Cavs in the postseason, and that appears to have carried into this year. I expect to see more minutes of Love at the five, with few players on Toronto’s roster capable of exposing the weak spots in his defensive game.
Containing Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will once again be the key to defeating the Raptors. While they have flaws in their front-court, the All Star duo have found ways to shoulder the load and come away with a win in the past.
Kay Felder has been cleared for the Cavs, and Lue has indicated that he expects Iman Shumpert to play as well. It’ll be interesting to see how the minutes are distributed with a full lineup.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Raptors always seem to play Cleveland close, especially at home. That being said, I think this is a game the Cavs get up for and they simply have the better deeper roster. The lack of depth at the big man positions is a real problem, especially for a Cavs team that utilizes Love, James, Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye at those positions. Cavs win 115-100.