Basketball is back for real, finally. And the Cavs are facing a familiar opponent in the Raptors, albeit with both Raptors altered from when they faced off in the playoffs last year. It’s not a bad place to start for a new era.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
When: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scotiabank Arena — Toronto, Canada
Enemy Blog: RaptorsHQ
TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Online: Fox Sports Go, NBA League Pass
Cavs injuries: J.R. Smith (DOUBTFUL - elbow)
Raptors injuries: None
Three keys to the game
- The Raptors are going to throw a variety of creative lineups at the Cavs that will test what Cleveland is capable of at this stage. On the wings in particular, Nick Nurse can ramp up the pressure with Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Pascal Siakam all on the floor at once. Kyle Lowry is a stout defender too. And right now, we have no idea how the Cavs will do against this much quality. It’s not a bad place for Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton to start off their seasons and for them to tested right away.
- Kevin Love has to play a great game in order for the Cavs to start off their season with a win. For him, that means scoring when he’s guarded by smaller players — which seems likely to happen — and being able to defend against speedier lineups. And this should also be our first clearer look at what his place at the head of the offense looks like and what kind of lineups the Cavs will build around him this year.
- If the Cavs are going to play fast as indicated, then they also have to take care of the ball. And while Love and George Hill can be expected to be smart with the ball, Osman, Sexton and Rodney Hood all have some work to do. Playing fast is fine, but it won’t work if the players the team is giving chances to waste those chances. For what it’s worth, the Cavs committed the eighth-fewest turnovers per game in the preseason, per nba.com/stats.
Cedi guarding Leonard is fun and and a massive test for Cedi, if a bit masochistic. But the real key for the Cavs is George Hill vs. Kyle Lowry. On offense, even if he doesn’t dominate the ball, Hill has to make Lowry work off ball and make catch-and-shoot threes. On defense, Hill has to pressure and contain Lowry enough to keep him from getting into any sort of rhythm and setting up his other teammates.
As much as Leonard is the best player on this team now, Lowry still will have a lot to stay about the Raptors’ success. And on Wednesday, it’s hard to see how the Cavs win if Hill doesn’t play well and hold his own.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Raptors are expected to be one of the East’s best teams and the Cavs are, well, not. Expect to see how much the gap between these two teams have grown. Raptors 111, Cavs 98.