I’m watching Oklahoma City against Miami as I write this, coming off a full work day of covering the NBA trade deadline. It doesn’t seem fair to crash like this, going from all of that excitement and excellence to Toronto against Clevleand.
But hey, Nando De Colo, right? Things could be worse. This could be a bad team. Or it could be a kind-of-good team with Austin Daye on it. Things, they are looking up.
On Friday, the Raptors host the Cavaliers at 7 p.m. on TSN2, and it will be a seriously banged up Cavs squad that visits. Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles all stayed at home for the trip though newly-acquired Spencer Hawes is apparently en route to Toronto as of this writing. Here is a GIF of Spencer Hawes, at all times, always:
Point Guard – Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez vs. Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Jack
This is a pretty interesting match-up. Anyone would take Irving over Lowry if the trade were offered, but Lowry has been the better guard so far this season, All-Star selections be damned. They shoot nearly identical clips but Lowry shoots slightly more threes, giving him an overall scoring edge, and his assist, steal and rebound rates are also better. Lowry gets the edge on defense, too, so for one night, at home, this isn’t the negative it may have been assumed to be before the season.
Vasquez and Jack are interesting, too, assuming you find underperforming back-up guards to be interesting. Jack was shopped hard ahead of the deadline and has been unable to find the chemistry with Irving he’s shown splitting the backcourt with other guards in the past. Vasquez, meanwhile, may be turning a corner but maybe just had a good game before and after the break, it’s hard to tell with him this year. Just when I think I’m out, he pulls me back in, although less so when he’s clean-shaven because we no longer have a similar look.
Wings – DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and John Salmons vs. Matthew Dellavedova, Luol Deng and Alonzo Gee
Having no Waiters and Miles is a huge loss for the Cavaliers, not only stripping their second unit of their best scorer but also limiting their efficacy from downtown. Deng hasn’t been quite himself with Cleveland but remains a match-up problem on defense, capable of locking DeRozan down should the Cavs decide to match up that way.
The this-is-really-shallow-how-can-we-even-call-this-depth depth here gives the Raptors the slightest of edges, and you can expect to see plenty of two-point guard lineups from each side. That’s probably a good thing for Toronto given how effective the Lowry-Vasquez pairing has proven so far.
Slight Edge: Toronto
Bigs – Patrick Patterson, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansborugh vs. Tristan Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller
It’s easy to gloss over the Cavs bigs based on reputation but Bennett has been showing signs of life, Zeller has been pretty effective of late and the new Hawes-Thompson duo could prove complementary on offense. The Raptors still get the edge, but keep in mind that’s without Varejao – in a playoff series, the big rotation for the Cavs could prove troublesome.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Strength – Offensive rebounding (sixth)
Weakness – Defending corner threes (26th in attempts allowed), Defending the rim (27th in restricted area opponent shooting, though they do a solid job limiting attempts), Shooting at the rim (30th in restricted area shooting)
Strength – Defending the mid-range (third best opponent shooting in mid-range)
Weakness – “Clutch shooting” (just 37.3 percent in the last five minutes of games within five points, though this isn’t as bad as you’d think relative to the league average, it just sticks out after Wednesday)
Note – the Raptors are so painfully average, they barely rank in the top- or bottom-five in anything
Vegas says: Raptors -7.5 with the action split evenly. 61 percent are taking the over at 196.5, which seems like a mistake given that both of these teams play at a bottom-10 pace.
Hollinger says: Raptors -12
A$AP Rocky says: I’m blessed, my bad, I forgot to sneeze
Blake says: I felt a little silly after predicting a non-narrow victory on Wednesday (I think I said nine points), so I’m inclined to respond by going extra-cautious here. The Cavaliers have also won six straight, and even though only one of those wins was against a team above .500 and injuries and the deadline deal threaten to make this a let-down game, I’m just not in a place, personally, to be incredibly confident. I’ll take the Raptors, because deep down I am an eternal optimist, but I want no part of that spread.