After an ugly, momentum-derailing performance at home against the Wizards that had the Raptor brass running around collecting those “Rudy Gay for MVP” t-shirts they hastily made after his Knicks effort, the Raptors (23-34) head on the road to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers (19-38). The Cavs are on the second half of a back-to-back, having posted one of the most impressive wins of their season last night – a 3 point win over a solid Chicago squad without their best player and arguably the conference’s best point guard in Kyrie Irving, who’s currently listed as day-to-day with a hyperextended knee.

Obviously, Irving’s absence, or lack thereof, is the story here – he’s truly a game changer and someone opposing teams need to carefully game plan for. Their win last night notwithstanding, the Cavs are a very offensively limited team without him, and the Raptors should have a sizeable advantage in terms of scoring punch. Of course, I said that on Monday about the Wizards game, and look what happened.

This is the third matchup of the season between these two squads, with the Raptors taking the first one comfortably and Cleveland evening the series on an Irving buzzer beater. It’s absolutely crucial that the Raptors win tonight’s rubber match – if a playoff push is in the cards, they can ill-afford losing a game to a depleted squad that’s behind them in the standings. Gun to my head, I’d say Irving won’t be in the lineup – his future’s far more important than a game against the Raptors – but he’s a gamer and I’ve certainly been very wrong before.

Let’s get to the tale of the tape:

O-Rating: Toronto 106.8 (12th), Cavaliers 106.2 (15th)
D-Rating: Toronto 107.9 (22nd), Cavaliers 110.10 (28th)
Pace: Toronto 92.5 (25th), Cavaliers 95.0 (11th)
Strength: Toronto ball control (3rd), Cavaliers forcing turnovers (6th in Opp turnovers)
Weakness: Toronto Freebies (30th in Opp FTA/FGA), Cavaliers defensive rebounding (27th)

Positional Breakdown
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry, John Lucas, and Sebastian Telfair v. Kyrie Irving(?), Shaun Livingston, and Josh Selby
Advantage: Raptors if no Irving, Cavs if Irving plays

Not much of an explanation necessary here. Kyrie is one of the league’s 15 best players, a versatile scoring threat and one of the league’s smartest ballhandlers. Oh, and he hit a dagger game-winner the last time he played the Raps. If he plays, the Cavs have the advantage, if he doesn’t, they don’t. Simple as that.

Wings: Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross v. Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles, Luke Walton, and Wayne Ellington
Advantage: 
Raptors
Waiters is a streaky scorer who can put up points in bunches, but if he’s your number one scoring option on the wing, you’re not going to get the “advantage” very often. Alonzo Gee is the Cavs’ only plus defender at the wing positions, so look for Gay, DeMar, and/or Alan Anderson to put a bunch of points on the board. The Raps would be wise to ride the hot hand, as Cleveland doesn’t really have an answer for their top two options as a scoring threat.

Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy v. Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, Marreese Speights, and Kevin Jones
Advantage:
 Raptors
It’s been nice watching the continued improvement of Canadian Tristan Thompson, who’s averaging close to a double-double and could become half of a dynamic frontcourt with Anderson Varejao next season. The Cavaliers’ bigs as a hole are an underrated (if understaffed) bunch – Zeller has developed more quickly than expected, and Speights is a solid rotation big – but the Raptors get the advantage here due to depth and offensive versatility. Jonas vs. Thompson should be an interesting matchup, if only to see last years’ number 4 and 5 picks battling one another.

The Picks

Vegas: Raptors -1.5
Hollinger: Cavs -1
Garrett: Tough to make a prediction when you don’t know if Kyrie Irving will play or not, but the Raptors showed enough fight in their matchup with the Cavs that I’m feeling a bounce back win either way. If Kyrie plays, Raps by 2. If he doesn’t, Raps by 10.

  • c_bcm

    “Cavaliers’ bigs as a hole are an underrated”
    ughhhhh. So many jokes, so little space.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XHJKFMCGSMBEQGBRKJVLKUGSEQ john g

    Waiters has been on a tear lately, Raps better watch out for him tonight

  • FAQ

    If TRaps lose this game might as well concede the rest of the season.

  • Ya think

    Ru dy Ru dy Ru dy !! 26 fga for 27 pts, 7 turnovers and a buzzer beater. A star who deserve themax contract! A dude that got cajones to speak to team mates after his C performance (1-11).That’s our Man , Master,Moses, Franchise player. He s not a chuker , but Ru dy Ru dy Ru dy Gay !! Pizza Pizza Pizza ! We are proud raptors Fans ! I m starting now : Gay A+ DD A + Bargnani F, the pasta boy sucks , boo boo, next year with lazy boy gone we will rule the world and will get the Oscar Award and the Pulitzer as best blog ever, Ru dy Ru dy !

    • BoshRawr

       Clown comments bro.

    • Nilanka15

      Where’s the dislike button?

  • RapChap

    Can we have have updated stats to reflect the Rudy Gay / post Caleron era. I am thinking specifically of Toronto’s strength being ball control. Last game at the half the team had more turnovers than assists.  I can’t believe that we are 3rd in the league any more. I am sure there are other things that have improved.

  • NyAlesund

    Win no excuses.

  • Statement

    Is this season STILL going? Egads….

    just trade Bargnani and get a PF and be done with it already..sheesh.

  • Sheptor

    Look for Rudy to over dribble but still  make a few as he wants to rebound from last game and score his own. Look for Lucas to do the same. Look for Lowry to do the same as well. Derozan will be doing the same but with better efficiency. Anderson will probably be doing the same out there tonight. Look for Bargs to completely shit his pants right before he shoots especially if the first couple are open and don’t go down. Look for Valanciunas to rebound but never get a look on his rolls. Look for Amir to pick up two quick ones before his shoe laces are done up. Look for Terrence Ross to be forgotten about. Landry Fields should see a few minutes tonight..he’s getting paid to after all. Acy will be looking to increase his high five percentage trying to get his teammates to not leave him hanging once tonight, I say 7-8 on up-tops and 4/5 on down lows. Sebastian Telfair might get a look tonight, if he does he’ll somehow play identical to JL3. And if the power goes out tonight, look for Aaron Gray’s smile to light up the building.

  • Defence

    bargnani’s defence is literately laughable l have no idea how he is still getting playing time. He looks like he is going at half speed when he runs up and down the court.  Does he realize he is playing for a job next year.  Jesus get your game together.

    • Nilanka15

      I didn’t think it was humanly possible, but his help rotations have actually become slower.

  • j bean

    The starting five are playing fantastic D and open up a 14 point lead to start the game. I don’t get the need to change the lineup before the quarter ends and bring in Andrea. The Raptors are down 6 in a flash and that great chemistry has left.

  • RaptorFan

    Can smeone explain why Casey decides to play Andrea instead of Jonas???

    I understand Jonas is a rookie BUT he plays 10 times harder than Andrea and also rebounds.

    Jonas only had 3 fouls and i’m not even sure he played at all in the 4th Q

    Andrea had 0 points (0-4 fg) 1 rebound and 0 fouls

    Jonas had 5 points 8 rebounds and 3 fouls

    How can you be a big and not even pick up 1 foul???

    Andrea gave us NOTHING (unless you want to count his block on a 6 ft 2 inch SG) and he gets MAJOR minutes in the 4th Q

    Can someone please tell me what the fcuk is going on here???? Please explain this because i’m at a lost for words. When will Casey realize what MOST fans already know – Andrea is USELESS if he’s not scoring!

    This is why he gets booed! He doesn’t show up when we NEED him.

    GREAT game for DEMAR! WOW Again he shows up only to be let down by his teammates. 34 Points , 5 rebounds and 2 assists for DD

    Good game for Rudy! 24 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists

    OK fanboys – lets hear some more excuses for the 7 year veteran Andrea “primo pasta boy” Bargnani

    • RaptorFan

      Can someone explain why Casey decides to play Andrea instead of Jonas *In the 4th Q*

      correction: In the 4th Q

    • Nilanka15

      “Come hell or high water”

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