Three more weeks. 11 more games. That’s all that’s left for the 2011-2012 Raptors. They’re out of the playoff hunt, there aren’t a hell of a lot of interesting storylines around the team, and tonight they face a team that’s equally irrelevant. But there are always things to watch for, so here are seven questions in advance of the game, one for every contest in a playoff series. Oops.
- How watchable is Cleveland without Kyrie Irving? This is a serious question; he’ll miss the game due to a sprained shoulder and I’ve missed the six games in which he’s been injured. When I do watch the Cavs, he’s captivating. Not sure I can say the same about Donald Sloan and Lester Hudson.
- Speaking of point guards with D-League experience, can Toronto get anything from Justin Dentmon? His 10-day contract was finally announced today and he should get plenty of minutes given that Jose Calderon is sitting out with his swollen eye.
- Who exactly is going to score for Cleveland? In addition to Irving’s injury, old friend Anthony Parker is out with a bruised sternum. He scored 27 of the Cavs’ 98 points on Wednesday against the Bucks.
- How will James Johnson respond to his benching against Philadelphia? We don’t know the details, but he’s not a guy I would’ve expected to need to be disciplined. If he’s back in the lineup, he needs to avoid the temptation try to do too much.
- Can the Cavs do anything about Bargnani? He’s been putting up big scoring numbers of late and Antawn Jamison is not the answer defensively. Perhaps Tristan Thompson will get the challenge.
- Can Thompson have a big game in front of family and friends? His first visit here, he received a great ovation but did not play particularly well, missing all five of his shots. It’s normal for a player to press in his first professional game in his hometown. With how depleted this roster is, Cleveland needs him to do more.
- Will the Raptors have energy coming out of the gate? They’ve been notoriously slow starters for much of the season and, after their strong fourth quarter in Philly, might be feeling themselves a bit too much. It’s hard for a non-playoff team to get up for any game this kind of year, let alone against the Cavs, let alone the Cavs without their best player.