The Cleveland Cavaliers (21-39) will face another team vying for the Easter Conference play-in game in the Toronto Raptors (25-35). Toronto has rallied of late to put themselves back into the playoff picture, while the Cavs will look to rebound after a disastrous fourth quarter yesterday against the Washington Wizards.
While Cleveland’s play-in hopes are all but officially dashed, the Raptors are looking to continue building toward the inaugural game. Toronto has won four of their last five games, the only loss coming against the red-hot New York Knicks. The schedule flips for the Raptors after this game against the Cavs, as their next four games are against the Nets, Nuggets, Jazz and Lakers. So, yeah, they will be extra hungry to get a win against the sputtering Cavaliers.
Collin Sexton did not suit up Sunday against the Wizards due to a concussion, and it is unclear right now if he will be out on the court Monday against Toronto. If he is not, and the team will be careful, especially with concussions (ask Matthew Dellavedova), then the Cavaliers may run out a lineup similar to Sundays with Cedi Osman starting. Osman, who did not play in the five games prior to Sunday, sparkled on offense with 19 points and five assists against Washington. Ultimately, the Cavs do not have real incentive to force Sexton onto the court. But he is the team’s leading scorer, so there will be an offensive hole to fill.
If Sexton IS able to play, the Cavaliers will roll with him and Darius Garland as usual with Isaac Okoro, Kevin Love, and Jarrett Allen. That lineup, the one we have all waited for, is a respectable +1.9 on 154 possessions for the season. per Cleaning the Glass.
What to Watch For
Gary Trent Jr., Walking Flamethrower
If the Cavs want any chance at winning, they should probably make sure Gary Trent Jr. does not erupt the way he did on April 10. Trent scored 44 points on 17/19 shooting, including 7/9 from beyond the three-point line en route to a 20-point Raptor romp . Yeah, that cannot happen again.
Luckily for the Cavs, Gary Trent Jr. has cooled off some — he has scored in the single digits in three of his last five games. But after the massive outburst earlier this month, the Cavs should be on the lookout.
That aforementioned lineup of Sexton, Garland, Okoro, Nance, and Allen has not played a tremendous amount of time together. In fact, the Cavs have nine different lineups this season that have played more than 100 possessions together. Needless to say, there have been a lot of barriers to creating consistency. But heading into next season, that is likely the starting lineup regardless of the rookie the front office selects. So, in the final weeks of another lost – but productive – season, the Cavs will need to start building chemistry. The matchup with the Raptors will be yet another opportunity to do just that.
Some of these things are already happening right before our eyes. The Garland-Allen two-man game is blossoming quickly, with Allen showing his prowess setting a good screen and Garland providing lob:
Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen two-man game is lovely. pic.twitter.com/Ytgs89KZZ5— Mike Anguilano (@anguilanom22) April 21, 2021
The DG to JA connection #BeTheFight | @cavs pic.twitter.com/9ruJ0p31Cc— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) April 25, 2021
These are things that will continue to develop and appear against less apathetic defenses (sorry, Wizards). But the lob threat, coupled with Garland’s continued confidence to pull-up and shoot, will do wonders for the offense. Simple things like knowing where teammates will be, knowing their capabilities on both ends of the floor, and communicating all add up. One day, it will add up to wins.