Gameday: Cavaliers @ Raptors, Jan. 26

Cleveland Rocks!


The game is at 7 p.m. in Toronto on TSN, but if a team wins in and nobody is watching to see it, does it still count in the standings? I say few might see it, of course, because the NHL is back and “7 p.m. on Saturday” is reserved for Hockey Night in Canada for many.

That’s the argument, at least. I find that the die-hard Raptor fans don’t see a lot of crossover with the blue and white. The casual fans, sure, they might be at home watching Coach’s Corner, but the turn out should still be fair. Here’s hoping TSN doesn’t cut away to hockey highlights at some point, though.

I will be PVRing the game as I’ll be out doing a video documentary on the East Vancouver Pillow Fight League. Yup, you read that correctly.

Anyway, I’m sure you don’t care what hockey fans or yours truly will be doing, you just want the breakdown. So how do the 11-32 Cleveland Cavaliers look next to the 16-27 Toronto Raptors?

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 106.5 (11th), Cleveland 103.0 (22nd)
D-Rating: Toronto 108.6 (26th), Cleveland 108.7 (27th)
Pace: Cleveland 91.9 (12th), Toronto 89.9 (25th)
Strength: Toronto Ball Control (2nd), Cleveland Forcing Turnovers (3rd)
Weakness: Toronto Fouling (30th), Cleveland Defense (30th in Opponent eFG%)

Synergy Says
Cleveland: The Cavs are strong in isolation (hi, Kyrie) and on the offensive glass but are below average just about everywhere else. Nearly 20% of their shots are of the spot-up variety, and they hit 37% of spot-up threes, so the Raptors will need to be aware of the drive-and-kick and players in the corners. Defensively, the Cavaliers struggle just about everywhere except handling dive-men, which has gotten worse since losing Anderson Varejao. They especially struggle with post-ups and in defending in transition, increasing the importance of defensive rebounding for the Raptors.

Toronto: Number one in isolation, which is actually nearly impossible to believe given the roster construction. Wow. They’re also very strong in pick-and-roll situations, on the offensive glass and on post-ups. I’d hope to see DeMar DeRozan, in particular, work on the block tonight. Defensively the Raptors handle their own glass fairly well, which will be important. They do struggle against spot-up shooters, and teams generally try to attack them there by using 20% of their possessions in that manner. The Raptors allow teams to shoot 38% on spot-up threes, so the Cavaliers game plan will likely look to exploit that.

Positional Breakdown
Point Guard – Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry v. Kyrie Irving and Shaun Livingston
It’s Kyrie Irving, get your head on straight. The Raptors will need to ignore the swirling rumors that Kyle Lowry is now the guard most likely to be dealt off the team and focus in on the man who had 35 points on just 17 field goal attempts last night. If you weren’t aware, Irving is really, really good, so he’ll at least be fun to watch. At 24-4-6 and a 40% clip from long range, he will not be fun to guard.

Wings – DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross and Alan Anderson v. Alonzo Gee, Dion Waiters, Daniel Gibson and Wayne Ellington
It’s not a high-talent wing battle but the Raptors should have an edge. Gee is a nice versatile player but isn’t much of a threat offensively, and Waiters, while extremely talented, is still in the “chucker” phase of becoming a scorer. He can fill it up, and might, but he’ll take a lot of shots to get there. The bench wings are capable shooters, putting added pressure on the defense. None of these wings, except maybe Gee, are strong defensively, and the team fouls at a high rate, so attacking on the wings should be a key. Anderson and DeRozan had solid games the last time these two met, and I’d expect more of the same here.

Bigs – Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray v. Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Marreese Speights
The Raptors starters are better, of course, but Speights is a strong addition off the bench for them. He had 10-and-6 last night in just 18 minutes and put up 18-and-12 against the Raptors as a member of the Grizzlies earlier in the season. Thompson is beastly on the boards but pretty weak defensively, while Zeller would be a nice back-up center. Davis and Johnson have been getting run into the ground of late in terms of workload but their efficiency is yet to really take a hit. The Raptors should have the advantage here but I worry thinking about Speights changing things when the reserves check in.

The Picks
Vegas: Raptors -6
Hollinger: Raptors -5.5
Blake: Raptors by 3. I see it being closer thanks to some Irving heroics, and the Raptors will see a 10-point fourth quarter lead nearly evaporate, only to hold on in the end.

Have a good weekend everyone!

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