Pre-Game

Gameday: Raptors @ Cavaliers, Dec. 1

It’s almost dark out, the street lights are coming on and you can hear the soft chirping of crickets against the dead air. Three children are running east towards a street called “Destiny”. Before they reach their destination they come across a street that reads: “Cleveland”, but they pay it no mind. A hulking shadow emerges from behind a pile of tires, another pops up on the other side of the road.

The tallest of the children who’s sporting a jacket that says: “Most Improved” notices a tattered “Chosen One” banner flapping in the wind. The smallest child, and leader of the group, is wearing a grimace on his face. The third child, could walk for miles in his comfy new pair of New Balance shoes.

The figure from behind the tires presents himself, the scent of late night clubs fill the air. He yells: “Don’t you know the East runs through Cleveland?”

The smallest child, and leader responds: “No dumbass questions.”

Fresh off their thrilling overtime win against the Warriors, the Raptors sit atop the league’s standings at 19-4. In one of the Raptors’ best games of the season, Kawhi Leonard showed off his late game chops, in contrast to a bit of passivity from extraordinary point guard, Kyle Lowry.

Siakam’s performance against the Warriors was his best shooting night of the year, but he still detonated in transition. His career high game stitched together most all of his skills in an extremely palatable way. More time with bench minutes for Siakam going forward likely means his absurd efficiency might dip a bit, but we’ll see.

Oddly enough, the Cavaliers are the literal antithesis of what Tristan Thompson’s aforementioned comment was meant to mean. It might have been better to say the East runs over Cleveland, or something along those lines. Enough of my quibbling, the Cavaliers are a bad basketball team (4-17).

After a troublesome start to the year, Collin Sexton has turned things around in the past 10 games. Still lacking any playmaking prowess, but using his athleticism to bust into defenses with regularity. 48-percent from the field and the same number from downtown have spring-boarded him to 19-points per game over his last 10. Scoring that the second worst shooting team in the league (.533 TS%) desperately needs, despite not knowing how to play basketball, apparently.

While Fred VanVleet’s game against the Warriors was forgettable (a generous description?) he has a chance to right the ship tonight. Another opportunity to get reps in with his pick n’ roll partner Jonas Valanciunas. The VanVleet-Valanciunas pick n’ roll has been one of the sore spots of the bench’s play and some of that falls at the feet of the loveable point guard. Serge Ibaka scores in the 87th percentile out of the pick n’ roll, adversely, Valanciunas is way down in the 37th percentile. Ibaka has been nuts from 16-feet to the 3-point line, but having Lowry as a partner does wonders for his game.

As much as the Ibaka-Valanciunas debate rages on, Valanciunas is at the very least a similarly capable pick n’ roll partner to Ibaka. Forget the defense, Valanciunas is a great offensive big. If the bench can suddenly march out a top-tier pick n’ roll option, they become that much better.

Good team plays bad team. Erm, best team plays worst team.

Game Info

TV: TSN | Radio: Sportsnet THEFAN590 | Tipoff: 8 PM EST

Raptors Updates

Greg Monroe (back) is available to play after missing time, and Norman Powell (shoulder) is still out.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown, Jordan Loyd

SG: Danny Green, Fred VanVleet, CJ Miles, Malachi Richardson

SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby

PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby

C: Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher

Cavaliers Updates

A lengthy list of injuries: JR Smith (trade me, pls) is out indefinitely, David Nwaba (knee) is out, George Hill (shoulder) is out, Sam Dekker (ankle) is day-to-day, and Kevin Love (toe) is still out indefinitely.

PG: Collin Sexton, Andrew Harrison

SG: Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Alec Burks

SF: Cedi Osman

PF: Larry Nance

C: Tristan Thompson, Ante Zizic, Channing Frye

Final Thoughts

Alec Burks will likely play his first game as a Cavalier after being traded from the Jazz for Kyle Korver. Hopefully the Raptors play Leonard and Lowry less than 30 minutes each, and the Raptors should walk away from this well rested. Just because I’m looking ahead to Denver (maybe, perhaps) doesn’t mean the Raptors should. The East does run through Cleveland, after all.

Have a blessed day.

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