The Cavs last played the Raptors on Jan. 11 in game where Isaiah Thomas shot 2-14 from the field and he, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder, Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert were still on the team. A lot has changed since then, when the Raptors beat the Cavs 133-99.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: RaptorsHQ
Cavaliers injuries: Rodney Hood (QUESTIONABLE - back), Tristan Thompson (QUESTIONABLE - ankle), Kyle Korver (OUT - personal matter), Larry Nance Jr. (OUT - hamstring), Cedi Osman (OUT - hip flexor)
Raptors injuries: Fred VanVleet (QUESTIONABLE - right hand contusion)
Three Keys to the game
- When Kevin Love returned on Monday against the Bucks, the Cavs were without Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood and Cedi Osman. Love was on a minutes restriction and Kyle Korver was dealing with some ankle soreness. In short: This team has not been healthy and still aren’t. And even if, say, Nance and Hood were available and at full strength, it’s wouldn’t be worth reading too much into this game. Remember: Whenever Nance and Hood return, it’ll be the first time they’ve ever played with Love. Even if Thompson and Hood returns, the Cavs are missing three rotation pieces.
- The Raptors’ bench is very good, and is a big reason why Toronto has been the best team in the East this season. The Cavs will not play many minutes without LeBron, but in the eight or so minutes that they do, they’ll need to survive. That means continuing to get good minutes from Jordan Clarkson, Ante Zizic and others. And if Love is cleared to play more minutes, he would be a natural fit on the floor to start the fourth quarter when James gets a rest.
- Korver’s absence means the two-guard spot is going to be up in the air just a bit. Hood has his health issues and J.R. Smith has been inconsistent all season. It also seems likely the Cavs will have to play Hill and Clarkson together more than they normally do.
- Bonus note: Wednesday’s game is the second half of a back-to-back for Toronto. The Raptors played the Magic Tuesday night in Orlando, winning 93-86.
How the Cavaliers defend Lowry and DeRozan, and who they have available to do so, is going dictate a lot of this game. Against Lowry, Hill needs to use his length to bother Lowry while making him work and move on the other end. As for DeRozan, Larry Drew could use Smith, Hood (if healthy) and Jeff Green for most of the game and allow LeBron to play off-ball and help off onto DeRozan. But will there come a point in the game where James takes on the DeRozan assignments and works to lock him down himself? If the game is close in the fourth quarter, that seems likely.
Another one to watch: Love vs. whoever Toronto guards him with. The Raptors play small a decent amount, but also pair Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka together for large chunks of the game. If they go small when Love is on the floor, and he feats inside as a result, it could force the Raptors to reconsider that strategy against the Cavs.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Toronto has been the best team in the East this season, and this will be a test for the Cavs. LeBron and Love alone can make this close, but this is still a group that needs more time together, and to get healthy. Raptors 108, Cavs 103.