The Raptors are back on a roll after beating both the Knicks and the Mavericks in convincing fashion on the weekend. Tonight they are in Cleveland on the first night of a back-to-back against the Mavs. I always thought that the win we had over the Cavs was a disservice to this team because it made a lot of people think the Raptors were better than they actually were. The fact of the matter is that Cleveland was playing the second game of a back-to-back, the first of which was an intense season opener to the Celtics.
While it was a quality win against an elite team, it by no means meant that the Raptors were destined for 50 wins and such. All it meant was that we were able to take advantage of a tired/oldish team who were playing their second game in two nights while trying to integrate a new piece (Shaq) into a team that didn’t know what to do with him. Since that game, the Cavs have gone 30-10, and are sitting pretty at the top of the East.
Don’t think they’ve forgotten about the beating we laid down on them earlier in the season. When asked about tonight’s game, Mo Williams said:
We’re playing at a different level. So are [the Raptors] — 10 of their last 13, they’ve won. They’re playing well. But, at the same time, we feel like we owe them. They handed us a loss, and you always want to use that as motivation. That’s what we’re doing.
A motivated Cavs team scares me, really. This will be a redemption game for the Cavs who are playing some great basketball, 7-3 over their last 10 and 31-11 on the year. Of their 11 losses, 5 of them are on the road to .500+ Western Conference teams; and 2 of them are against the Bobcats who seem to have their number for some reason.
You might remember the Saturday loss to Utah where some dude named Sundiata Gaines hit the games winning three with no time left on the clock.
Tonight, the Raptors need to bring a lot of what they had in the first game, namely an aggressive Bargnani. With Bargnani playing the way he has been, the Raptors front line has a big advantage in terms of speed, quickness and outside shooting. Shaq/Ilgauskas have no chance in hell of covering whoever Varajeo isn’t. If the Cavs send the double, the Raptors will kick it out and share the ball like they did against the Mavs.
The high pick-and-roll becomes even more important in this scenario since neither has a chance in hell of doing anything but getting called for a foul. Varajeo is the only person on that front line who makes me nervous, and he has been having a great stretch over the last 10 games, posting 9.7pts and 9.2rebs on 36-71 shooting, all those shots coming inside 8 feet.
When it comes to LeBron, you just hope you can keep him on the perimeter and let him shoot the Cavs out of the game. While he had a triple-double that last game against the Raptors, he was 7-19 from the field (1-5 3pt) and 8-14 from the line. Hardly the kind of the line that would force you to defend the shot. I say let him shoot all he wants, bait him to shoot but provide heavy coverage on drives, this way he wont be able to get into the lane then Hit Parker/Williams/West with a kick out for an open jumper. Easier said than done of course.
As far as Hedo goes, 8pts 4rebs 6ast on 2-9 shooting isn’t going to cut it. While those are decent numbers and got us a win over the Mavs, a guy making $10mil should be providing more, and with LeBron probably notching another triple-double, Turkoglu needs to really step up. We can only hope he doesn’t have pizza for lunch today.
I’m looking for DeRozan to continue his strong play from the Dallas outing where his shot was popping. I’d liked to see him take it to Parker and try get the old mans legs weary. Run through the lane and around some low pics for a catch-and-shoot around the elbow.
The Cavs are -9.5 favourites with an over/under of 203. This is another test for the Raptors, but not a must win. We can only hope that if the game is out of hand by the 2nd half, that Triano will rest the starters (and Jose) in hopes of being as fresh as possible tomorrow against Milwaukee.
Oh, I can’t wait to see Jamario Moon jack a couple bad jumpers when he should have swung the ball. That really makes me happy.