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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors: game preview and how to watch

Cavs look to fight for playoff position tonight in Toronto 

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

From here on out, every game is going to be a big one. If the Cleveland Cavaliers want to stay out of a play-in tournament seed (7-10) and into a guaranteed spot, tonight is especially significant. Good news: thanks to the Toronto Raptors’ loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday and the Bulls’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday, the Cavs still have a decent chance. Cleveland currently holds an 81% shot at securing a 1-6 playoff spot according to Basketball-Reference – a win tonight will only help solidify that opportunity for the first time since 2018. The Cavaliers haven’t swept the season series with Toronto since 2008-09, and tonight will be the most important road game the Cavs have had in quite some time.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (41–31) vs. Toronto Raptors (40–32)

Where: Scotiabank Arena — Toronto, ON, CA

When: 7:30 p.m. EST

TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass

Spread: Cavs +5

Opposing blog: Raptors HQ

Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Isaac Okoro / Lamar Stevens / Lauri Markkanen / Evan Mobley

Cavs injury report: Jarrett Allen (OUT - finger), Collin Sexton (OUT - knee), Rajon Rondo (OUT - knee), Dean Wade (OUT - knee)

Expected Raptors starting lineup: Fred VanVleet / Gary Trent Jr. / Precious Achiuwa / Scottie Barnes / Pascal Siakam

Raptors injury report: Gary Trent Jr. (QUESTIONABLE - toe), OG Anunoby (QUESTIONABLE - finger), Malachi Flynn (OUT - hamstring)

Three things to watch

Defensive Woes. The consequences of an injury-riddled season are certainly catching up at the worst possible moment. Is the recent defensive downturn truly resting somewhere on Jarrett Allen’s fractured finger? The Cavs, particularly Darius Garland, look gassed. Evan Mobley has played sloppy at times, resulting in untimely foul trouble. Both teams have had two full days of rest leading into tonight’s match-up. The Cavs – still learning, still growing, still banged up – will quickly discover the sustained defensive skill it takes to achieve playoff success. It all begins with effort, and it all begins tonight.

ROTY Match-Up. Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley are neck-and-neck for the Rookie of the Year nod, and for good reason. Here’s where they stand statistically:

Mobley: 15.2
Barnes: 15.4

Mobley: 8.3
Barnes: 7.7

Mobley: 2.6
Barnes: 3.4

Mobley’s undeniable impact on the Cavs might give him the advantage needed to pull down the award, but he will be pressured tonight against the Barnes/Siakam tandem down low. Tonight, Mobley is eying both a victory and the accolade. If the rook can maintain his composure and poise, he will have an opportunity (under very bright lights) to showcase his elite passing skills, offensive artistry and lead the Cavs to a much-needed win.

Isaac Island. Okoro has been demonstrating promise lately from the perimeter. This week vs. the Lakers, the second-year guard tied his career-high in three-pointers, going a perfect 4-4. That’s a lovely bonus, pending its continued workability. If Darius Garland can get Okoro the ball early, and he connects, the Raptors will be less likely to leave him alone on Isaac Island. This can help to free up the defensive pressure on Mobley down low and open additional offensive schemes while the Cavs buy their time with Jarrett Allen. Every tiny bit helps as Cleveland grinds out their final 10 games of the season.