DeMar DeRozan is currently leading the NBA in scoring. He’s even doing it efficiently! This is less than stellar news for the Cleveland Cavaliers as they have struggled to contain DeRozan in the past. J.R. Smith has made significant improvements to his commitment to defense over the past couple seasons, but traditionally has struggled against guards that consistently attack the basket. Wings like DeRozan, Harden, and Wiggins all have given Smith and the Cavs trouble, while they typically do a better job containing shoot-first guards. Why does this matter? Well, with the Cavs regular season style of coasting and turning it on late, letting a player as talented as DeRozan get rolling and get into a groove can make it tougher to close the floodgates once it’s open. The Raptors are a team similar to the Hawks, where if you let them hang around or build up and early lead, they are very capable of stealing a win.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (8-1) vs Toronto Raptors (7-2)
When? 7:00 pm
Where? Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland, Ohio.
Where on my eyeballs? NBA TV
Despite all of the above, the Cavs have many reasons to be optimistic heading into the game. First of all, they are the better team. It’s a reality that has helped them excel to this point of the season with relative ease. They also have a road win against the Raptors under their belts, a win that came without the services of Channing Frye.
Missing Frye makes a big difference when facing the Raptors, as the Cavs biggest advantage comes in the front-court. Love and Frye both have the ability to torch the Dinos from the outside and expose the pick and roll defense of Jonas Valanciunas, as well as rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl. Toronto is still without Jared Sullinger and have been heavily reliant on their perimeter play to this point in the season. Normally the stretch bigs would be enough to force Valanciunas off of the floor, but with no proven backups, the team may need to ride it out and hope for the best.
Rumored LeBron-stopper DeMarre Carroll has been mostly a liability to this point in the season. Carroll has been playing with a minute restriction and still isn’t fully recovered from last year’s injuries. The Raptors have made up for his lack of production to this point with strong play from Terrence Ross as well as Norman Powell.
While the Raptors do surrender many open looks from beyond the arc, the Cavs would be wise to attack the paint and force the issue early on. As previously alluded to, the front-court advantage is considerable and Love and James being offensive focal points early should be a priority. I would expect Lue to sit Irving early and have him run the second unit with Frye and other shooters.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavaliers know how dangerous this Toronto team can be and are unlikely to take them lightly. I expect a big game from Kevin Love as well as more intensity from the team in the opening minutes. The tone of the game will likely be decided within the first seven minutes. If the Cavs pull away, I expect them to hold on to the lead. If Toronto hangs around, it’ll likely be another grind it out regular season game between these teams. I predict the former will occur, Cavs win 112-101.