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Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

Gameday: Cavaliers @ Raptors, Dec. 21

FVV is likely in for another start.

What is this Cleveland Cavaliers team even?

No LeBron James. No Kyrie Irving. No Tyronn Lue. No Kyle Korver. Tristan Thompson is injured and J.R. Smith is away from the team. There are no noteworthy remnants of the Cavs team that has haunted the Toronto Raptors franchise the past three seasons, unless you count Matthew Dellavedova from the 2016 playoffs who returned to Cleveland with George Hill heading to Milwaukee.

All that torture resulted in team president Masai Ujiri snapping and trading for Kawhi Leonard, so all wounds are healed, right?

Those years that LeBron spent tormenting teams — the Pacers, the Hawks, the Raptors — and it’s his hometown team that suffers now, for the second time as a result of his departure. Credit Masai and Toronto for hanging in there. Here are they are, top of the league with two impressive wins over the Golden State Warriors the icing on what has been a terrific season thus far.

If there is anything to criticize about the recipe so far, it’s the injuries that have accompanied them all season thus far, most notably the engine Kyle Lowry who has missed the last three games with a right thigh contusion. Lowry was missing the last time these two teams met, one that saw the Raptors look in complete control with Leonard on the floor, but look extremely beatable when he was off.

This is expected to be Lowry’s fourth straight absence, but after a lot of chopping and changing, it appears Nick Nurse has finally found something that sticks.

Playing Pascal Siakam at the five really helped a Raptors team that struggled for rhythm get into a groove, fueling offense off a defense that forced 20 turnovers for the game. To that point in the season, Toronto without Lowry looked eerily similar to the Cavaliers of the past without LeBron. Now, before you all get carried away, I’m not making any kind of player comparison here, but there is something to be said for a team that predicates its functionality around one player and teammates growing so accustomed to playing in a certain manner, but completely losing their shape without him.

Nurse will certainly be hoping his team formed a bit of an identity in that Pacers game and is able to carry that over to a game against a weak opponent that has won just eight of its 32 games this season. Despite its appearance, the Raptors would be ill-advised to overlook this team, one that recently defeated Indiana in their own building on Tuesday night courtesy of a Larry Nance Jr. buzzer-beater and has half of its wins on the season in its last 10 games.

Nance Jr. has channeled his inner Nikola Jokic over the past five games, averaging 9.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.2 blocks and 2.4 steals while Jarron Blossomgame has given them a nice lift off the bench over the last two games as well.

Collin Sexton has been abysmal, struggling to get his game going from any kind of range while displaying no discernible playmaking skills. He’s got a ton of speed, but he’s eons away from harnessing it into being a plus-player in this league.

The absence of Tristan Thompson will be comforting for a Raptors team missing its two frontline centers, and this could make for a bit more rope for Chris Boucher to play with and continue his development.


Time: 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT.
TV: Sportsnet ONE, Ontario. Radio: TSN Radio 1050.


Kyle Lowry is ruled out for this game and is not expected to play against his hometown Philadelphia 76ers as well. Serge Ibaka remains questionable but it seems logical that he would rest tonight in preparation for Joel Embiid on Saturday. All else remains status quo from Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown
SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Malachi Richardson
SF: Kawhi Leonard, C.J. Miles
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
C: Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher
OUT: Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry
TBD: Serge Ibaka


Tristan Thompson sprained his left foot and was diagnosed with a 2-4 week recovery time on Dec. 11. John Henson is out at least another eight weeks after undergoing wrist surgery earlier in the season while J.R. Smith remains away from the team awaiting some sort of transaction that puts him on another team.

PG: Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, Matthew Dellavedova
SG: David Nwaba, Alec Burks
SF: Rodney Hood, Jarron Blossomgame
PF: Cedi Osman, Channing Frye
C: Larry Nance Jr., Ante Zizic
OUT: Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, John Henson.


The Raptors are 12.5 point favorites and the over/under is set at 206.