The Raptors get their first look at the Cavs this season and it’s the perfect time for the seven-game losing streak to end.
With Houston coming up on Monday, this is the most favourable back-to-back set the Raptors have seen all year. Both the Cavs and Rockets own bottom-five records this season. Cleveland started out with a very respectable 8-7 record, but a 10-game losing streak in February derailed any hope of overachieving. Expectations were low anyway, as the Cavs continue to build around third year guard Collin Sexton. The man nicknamed “Young Bull” has been the Cavs leading scorer in 14 of their last 15 games, so it’s pretty obvious where the Raptors defence should be geared. Sexton and backcourt mate Darius Garland also make up one of the smaller backcourts in the NBA, matching Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
The Cavs leave a lot to be desired in many areas. They rank last in points per game this season (103.8) and play at the third slowest pace, which doesn’t take advantage of Sexton or Garland’s open court potential. They also average the third most turnovers in the league despite their pace. Overall, Cleveland has the third worst offensive rating and eighth worst defensive rating. This isn’t meant to rip a team that obviously has been in rebuild mode since LeBron James’ departure in 2018. I’m just illustrating that this one of those “must get” games if the Raptors are serious about turning their season upwards again after their unfortunate protocol battles.
One of the ways to avoid talking about fatigue on the second night of a back-to-back is to jump on the first game early. The Raptors have played in eight back-to-back sets this season. Four of those were decided by seven points or less, and the Raptors lost all of the second games in those scenarios. Overall, Toronto is 4-4 in Game one of back-to-backs and 1-7 in Game two.
It’s also easier not to get as fatigued if someone is consistently stepping up outside of the obvious six best players on the team. Aron Baynes’ contributions have been up and down all season. Right now, Nick Nurse seems to be giving Paul Watson and maybe Malachi Flynn their chance to solidify a consistent spot in the rotation. DeAndre’ Bembry and Terence Davis haven’t seen the court the last two games. Stanley Johnson and Matt Thomas averaged double digit minutes against Chicago and Detroit, but also didnt play vs Utah. Yuta Watanabe was another DNP-CD vs the Jazz, and has only played 12 minutes in the last three games total. So the musical chairs quest of hoping to find reliable depth continues. The bench mob of old doesn’t seem to be walking through that door.
Toronto currently sits 11th in the East, 1.5 games back of the final play-in spot and 4.5 games out of 4th. Three weeks ago Atlanta was in 11th, now they’re in fifth, thanks to a eight-game winning streak and a little Tony Snell magic. The Jazz game provided a lot of signs that the Raptors might hit their stride again sooner rather than later, so who knows. For the “soft tank” crowd, Cade Cunningham is scheduled to play right after in the second round of March Madness if this game doesn’t go well.
Tip-off: 7:00 PM EDT | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: SN 590 The Fan
Henry Ellenson’s 10-day contract expired on Saturday. No further update yet.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Terence Davis
SG: Kyle Lowry, Paul Watson Jr, Matt Thomas
SF: Norman Powell, DeAndre’ Bembry, Patrick McCaw
PF: OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, Yuta Watanabe
C: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Aron Baynes
Kevin Love (calf), Taurean Prince (shoulder) are both out. JaVale McGee (illness) and Matthew Dellevedova (appendectomy) are listed as questionable. Still looking to trade Andre Drummond.
PG: Darius Garland, Quinn Cook, Matthew Dellavedova
SG: Collin Sexton, Brodoric Thomas, Dylan Windler
SF: Isaac Okoro, Cedi Osman, Damyean Dotson
PF: Larry Nance Jr, Lamar Stevens
C: Jarrett Allen, Javale McGee, Dean Wade
Toronto is favoured by 7.5 points. It’s been a while since such a pro-Raptors line. Over/Under is 218.
In addition to Samson’s pod check the Rap Up right after the final whistle: