The Cavaliers haven’t exactly had the easiest go as of late. They’ve lost six of their past nine games, and the defense has been an absolute tire fire. After two days off, they’re playing a depleted Raptors team that’s uncharacteristically vulnerable. It would be wise to put forth a good effort in this one.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (26-14) at Toronto Raptors (28-11)
When: 8 PM ET
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Enemy Blog: RaptorsHQ
Online: Watch TNT
Cavs injuries: Derrick Rose (OUT - ankle), Iman Shumpert (OUT - left knee)
Raptors injuries: Kyle Lowry (OUT - tailbone), Serge Ibaka (OUT - suspension)
Three keys to the game:
- The Raptors are missing two starters in this matchup, with Kyle Lowry out due to a bruised tailbone and Serge Ibaka missing for a failed attempt to two-piece a blackbelt in James Johnson. The Raps have good depth, but missing two of the team’s best four players is always tough to overcome. Delon Wright should bother Isaiah Thomas defensively as the replacement point guard. We’ll see who steps in for Ibaka.
- The Cavs bench won’t have their run of things against the Raps, even with less depth. Despite Norman Powell’s struggles, the Raptors bench is deep and talented. Jakob Poeltl, C.J. Miles, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam (who could start) are all dangerous and energetic, and could give the Cavs AARP unit a run for their money. The starters will probably have to carry the load for the Cavs.
- DeMar DeRozan adding a three-point jumper is a real “Uh oh...Happy learned how to putt” moment for the league. It’s always been easy to jam up the Raps offense when DeRozan didn’t have the ball by recklessly helping off of him. He’s not quite Kyle Korver, but he has expanded that part of his game. DeRozan is 3.2 three-point attempts per game, a career high, and he’s making 36 percent of them. That kind of growth is what can make the Raptors much more dangerous in the postseason.
How does the rook do against LeBron? O.G. Anunoby is the latest in a line of lengthy, athletic defensive-minded wings that the Eastern Conference will throw against LeBron James. He’s probably no “LeBron-stopper”, but he certainly is a capable, hard-working defender. He’s also 6’8”, so LeBron won’t tower over him like he often does against wing defenders. It likely won’t go well, but it’ll be an interesting experiment to watch nonetheless.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Cavs know they aren’t playing well, and an opportunity has fallen in their lap to beat a conference rival. They should win this. Cavs 113, Raptors 109.