The Cleveland Cavaliers open up the 2022-23 campaign on the road against the Toronto Raptors in a game that could have playoff implications. This is the first time in decades a non-LeBron James led Cavalier team enters the season with legitimate expectations to compete in a deep Eastern Conference. We should be in store for a fun season.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors
Where: Scotiabank Arena - Toronto, ON
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Opposing blog: Blog a Bull
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Donovan Mitchell / Caris LeVert / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle)
Expected Raptors starting lineup: Fred VanVleet / Gary Trent Jr. / OG Anunoby / Scottie Barnes / Pascal Siakam
Raptors injury report: Chris Boucher (DOUBTFUL- hamstring), Otto Porter Jr. (OUT - hamstring), Malachi Flynn (PROBABLE - face)
Three things to watch
The battle of the frontcourts.
Styles ultimately make fights. The Cavs and Raptors are such an interesting watch due to their contrasting styles. Toronto is not afraid to start a lineup where the tallest player is 6’ 8” with the expectation that nearly every player can guard the one through five if needed. Conversely, Cleveland is willing to play multiple seven footers at a time while daring teams to take it to the rim.
The Cavs won the season series last year 3-1, but we weren’t able to get a great answer as to which style prevails against the other. The Cavs only had Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley available for one full game in those four meetings. Likewise Toronto’s frontline of OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam only played together in one of those four contests.
That should change Wednesday night as both front lines are expected to be at full strength. We’ll see if Allen and Mobley can press their advantage in the paint while also being able to hang with them on the perimeter.
The Cavs were ahead of the Raptors in the standings for 139 straight days last season before finally folding due in part to overwhelming injuries. The Cavs finished four games behind the Raptors and two games away from the sixth seeded Chicago Bulls.
The Cavs will be competing again against teams like the Raptors for one of the those top six playoff spots. Playoff spots can be won or lost based on how teams fair in their head-to-head matchups. The Cavs only play the Raptors three more times this season. Getting a win Wednesday night would give the Cavs a good chance at splitting or winning the season series. These games could make the difference between the Cavs being firmly within the top six or being on the outside looking in again.
The beginning of the Donovan Mitchell era.
The Cavs made the biggest move of the summer by going all-in for Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was brought in with the idea of taking the core of Garland, Mobley and Allen to the next level transforming them from a team that had dreams of making the playoffs to one that expects to be playing deep into the spring.
This will be our first look at how these core four players function together on the floor. Preseason showed us that the Garland and Mitchell duo can work offensively as they displayed a natural chemistry and feel for each other’s game. We don’t know how that duo will hold up defensively as the Mobley and Allen front line wasn’t able to get on the court together during preseason.
How these four players fit together will determine how the Cavs do this season and will define this era of Cavalier basketball. Wednesday night will provide our first glimpse as to which way this era will go.