After being swept in the playoffs the last two seasons and being the victims of the Cavs playing with their food in 2016, moving on from the rivalry must feel good. Of course the two players most responsible for the results of those series moving to the Western Conference is a big part of that.
Who: Toronto Raptors (48-19) at Cleveland Cavaliers (16-50)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena - Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Cavs status update: John Henson (Wrist - OUT), J.R. Smith (Not with team), Tristan Thompson (Foot - OUT), Larry Nance Jr. (Rib contusion - OUT), Matthew Dellavedova (Concussion - OUT).
Raptors status update: Kawhi Leonard (The load, it’s being managed - OUT), Fred Van Vleet (Thumb - OUT)
With the Raptors playing on a back to back, there is an opening for the Cavs to make this game interesting. However the absence of three of the team’s centers will likely make things a little more difficult. Especially when you have a team that likes to get to the rim and a gifted passer in Marc Gasol that can reward cutters.
With only Ante Zizic available and Leonard out of the lineup for Toronto, expect Pascal Siakam to be the key to this game. He has stepped up whenever Leonard rests this season and has blossomed into a fringe All Star caliber player.
His activity and ability to beat larger players off the dribble would make him a tough cover even if the Cavs were at full health. It’s possible that Larry Drew may elect to stick David Nwaba on him, even with the difference in size. His strength and mobility could at least slow Siakam down, as long as Nwaba stays out of foul trouble.
The other key to the game will be the play of the Cavs young guns. Collin Sexton has struggled through three meetings with the Raptors this season, posting a 44.6 true shooting percentage. While Cedi Osman is coming off two poor shooting games, but could benefit from Leonard resting. The duo will need to put forward a strong game to help keep this one competitive.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Even with the Raptors on a back to back, they weren’t tested that much during the first leg in Miami. They have too much depth and the Cavs are too injured to stop their potent offense. Raptors win 116-105.