Things haven’t been going so well for the Cleveland Cavaliers lately. A combination of sloppiness in taking care of the ball, as well as on the defensive end of the floor have contributed to the team’s three game losing streak. If the Cavs are going to turn it around, they’ll need to do it against a red hot Toronto Raptors squad.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (13-5) vs Toronto Raptors (14-6)
When? 7:30 p.m.
Where? Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Raptors have won six consecutive games and their last two wins have come in dominant fashion, beating the Lakers by 33 points and the Hawks by 44. While it would be nice for an easier opponent to turn things around against, this is a Cavaliers squad that typically rises in the face of adversity and may just need a challenge like this.
If the Cavs are to turn things around, they’ll need to prevent the Raptors from getting into the paint. Like Wade in Chicago, or Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, DeMar DeRozan will relentlessly attack the rim at will. While rim protection is a term that gets thrown around a lot, it’s the penetration the Cavs have been allowing that is most concerning. Wings have been getting into the paint at will, and have been allowed to feed their bigs with drop-off passes in deep position. Preventing players from getting to the rim and limiting their attempts was a large part of the Cavs success in the postseason. While Thompson has improved his rim protection numbers this season, over this losing streak the amount of penetration they are allowing is a team-wide failure.
Like previous match-ups between these teams, how the game is officiated will determine the feel for the game. In the second meeting of this season, there was a tremendous amount of contact that was allowed on both sides. The holding lead to turnovers from the Cavs, and frustration from a Raptors squad that often relies on getting to the line. While there’s no telling how it’ll be called, playing the Raptors requires discipline defensively and attention to detail. Not leaving your feet on pump fakes, resisting the urge to reach in on drives all is required to keep them from getting to the line.
Offensively, things don’t need to change too much for the Cavaliers. It comes down to focus and execution. Cut down on the turnovers, and things will fall into place. When the team had struggles early in the season, they were running sets, getting open looks, but failing to convert. What makes this losing streak different is that outside of a few stretches, the team has looked disjointed and settled for lazy looks too frequently. They must get back to executing and maintaining the dedication to getting quality looks that got the team off to their strong start.
Fear The Sword’s Fearless Prediction
I don’t think the Cavs will magically flip a switch. There will be some early pains in this game. But as I previously mentioned, this is a team that seems to rise when faced with adversity. The Raptors will be looking to prove their winning streak isn’t just due to a lack of strong competition and looking to make a statement. Just like the Clippers and Bulls, the Raptors will use the Cavs as a litmus test. The Cavs will need to survive the early push and push back. I believe this team will push back and win 112-106.