We’re going to keep it pretty brief again in the pre-game notes on account of this being a preseason game and some podcast recording I have to hammer out before the game. Also, you’ve got a full game preview here.
Your Toronto Raptors tip off against the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8 p.m and isn’t supposed to be on TV based on the Raptors’ schedule, but a commenter says it’s on TSN 1 & 4, so check there.
Terrence Ross stays home
The Raptors’ brand new flashy toy is staying back in Toronto. Terrence Ross is dealing with a sore knee, according to Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun, but the real reason for his absence is very obviously that the Raptors don’t want the Cavaliers to get a close look at the secret weapon for the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals rematch. Ross has looked like a new man, leading staff and teammates to rave about the change in his mental approach, and it seems as if some fans are buying back in. And they should! It’s what the preseason is for.
UPDATE: Ross apparently tweaked his knee at Tuesday’s open practice while attempting a 360 dunk. An MRI came back negative, at least.
Notable with Ross sitting is that this represents a big opportunity for Norman Powell to swing the first-wing battle back in his favor. Ross has outplayed Powell so far, and there’s a sense that only one will see major minutes to begin the year, at least if the team’s healthy. Powell should see plenty of run alongside the team’s rotation players in this one, allowing him to get back to focusing on the more subtle contributions he makes rather than worrying about leading the bench mob. He hasn’t been bad, to be clear, and his defense is almost always on point, but it’s appeared he’s trying to do a bit too much on offense. This could be a great bounce-back game.
This could also open up additional minutes for Fred VanVleet and Brady Heslip to see how they look in two-point guard lineups, as well as for E.J. Singler on the wing.
It stands to reason that with a back-to-back scenario in the preseason, some Raptors are going to be taking one of the next two nights off. My instinct is that they’d take the road game off, as they have but a single home preseason game, but the Raptors may prefer to play their top guys against actual NBA competition. Head coach Dwane Casey also paid lip service to going through the process of a back-to-back as a preparatory exercise, though one imagines this doesn’t extend to the more veteran players.
The team still hasn’t revealed the status of Jared Sullinger, who hasn’t played since the preseason opener due to a sore foot. Until we hear otherwise, assume he’s playing and starting. With the back-to-back, though, don’t be shocked – or overly concerned – if he sits one of the pair.
UPDATE: Sullinger is sitting again, as is DeMar DeRozan (rest) with Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell drawing the starts.
As for the others, here’s a best pass, without accounting for any potential shake-up since the last game.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Fred VanVleet, Brady Heslip,
Delon Wright (shoulder)
SG: Norman Powell, Drew Crawford,
DeMar DeRozan (rest)
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Bruno Caboclo, E.J. Singler,
Terrence Ross (knee)
PF: Pascal Siakam,Patrick Patterson, Jarrod Uthoff,
Jared Sullinger (foot)
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl, Yanick Moreira
For reference, here’s how the minutes have shaken out so far:
Known commodities: Patterson 62 (20.7/game), DeRozan 55 (18.3), Valanciunas 55 (18.3), Joseph 52 (17.3), Lowry 38 (19), Carroll 34 (17)
Getting acclimated: Sullinger 23 (23)
Competition 1: Siakam 58 (19.3), Nogueira 42 (14), Poeltl 36 (12)
Competition 2: Powell 59 (19.7), Ross 50 (16.7)
Competition 3: Crawford 52 (17.3), VanVleet 47 (15.7), Singler 18 (9), Heslip 9 (9), Uthoff/Moreira 0
Other: Caboclo 29 (9.7), Wright 0
The Cavs are taking it super-conservative in the preseason, which means no LeBron James in this one. The team rested all five of their starters on Monday, so it stands to reason that the others will be back in this one. Tristan Thompson was nursing a sore foot but draws back in here. Here’s a best guess at how things shake down, keeping in mind J.R. Smith remains unsigned:
PG: Kyrie Irving, Kay Felder, Jordan McRae, Toney Douglas,
Mo Williams (retired)
SG: Iman Shumpert, DeAndre Liggins, Markel Brown
SF: Richard Jefferson, Dahntay Jones, John Holland, Mike Dunleavy Jr.,
LeBron James (rest), Eric Moreland (waived)
PF: Kevin Love, James Jones, Jonathan Holmes
C: Tristan Thompson, Chris Andersen, Channing Frye, Cory Jefferson
After staying off the board most of the day, the Cavaliers are now 4.5-point favorites. Really, doe? (Sorry, I can’t even feign #ProveEm over a preseason line.) More importantly than Raptors by five (or whatever) is Blue Jays over Indians in 6, evening up the Toronto-Cleveland rivalry ahead of Raptors-Cavaliers II in May.