Gameday: Raptors vs Cavaliers, November 5

Toronto hosts the spunky Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, and you get the feeling the Raptors are gonna chew'em up.

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Photo via CTV

Six? Seven? Eight? Nine?

When will the win-streak end for these impervious, tenacious Toronto Raptors?

According to my fervid sermon to the masses Wednesday night, possibly never.

The Skinny

With each game, the Raps only seem to get stronger. Growing in cohesion and confidence like a mycelium network of basketballing fungi. Not “fun guy”.

Seriously, though, OG, FVV, GTJ, Svi, Banton, Precious, Birch, even Malachi, and Champagnie march out brimming with more confidence, executing more sharply and more adventurously each possession.

They show it shooting in rhythm in transition, rolling with purpose off screens, attacking narrow crevices in the paint, and pulling stepbacks in the face of set defences.

Or the heart of it.

We know what they’re about on defence.

They now have the sixth-best defensive rating in the league and have FORTY-ONE more deflections and SIXTEEN more steals than the second place, Charlotte Hornets.

That’s all without the Raptors second-most versatile defender, Scottie Barnes, who may not be in their top echelon of isolation defenders, but switches seamlessly and roams nefariously in half-court scrambles to shore up potential breakdowns.

Speaking of, he’s bacckkkkkkk.

After hurting his thumb at the very end of the Pacers game, Barnes has missed the last two wins. Tonight, he’ll have a chance to battle his early-on Rookie of the Year nemesis, Evan Mobley.

Oh, one more little tidbit for you all. Gary Trent Jr. likkkkkes toying with the Cavs.

He ran up against them twice last year: once as a Blazer, shooting 8/12 and scoring 26 points……….you know where I am going with this……….and, once as a Raptor, shooting SEVENTEEN FOR FREAKING NINETEEN (that’s 90% in case you were long-dividing in your dome) and scoring 44.

Your homework, folks and friends, is to watch each and every one of those spicy jalapeño poppers drop prior to tip-off tomorrow.

~

The Cleveland Cavaliers, also in the face of Las Vegas oddsmakers, have a youth movement of their own brewing. I wrote about them and their surprising start yesterday (yes, I’m plugging myself, so what?).

They’re 5-4 with solid wins over Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte, and Portland and a narrow loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Cleveland, like Toronto, struggles to score (Toronto is 21st in points per game, Cleveland’s 25). They’re the fourth-worst three-point shooting team and last in points scored on drives.

They do their dirty work in the paint – just not through penetration – with a starting front line of Lauri Markkanen (6’11”), Mobley (6’11”), and Jarett Allen (6’10”) who all love to rock the rim. They’re first in paint touches, first in paint points, and fifth in offensive rebounds. Guess who’s first? It’s going to be a bloody board battle. 

In the back court, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are Ant-Men: undersized but bullish (Sexton) and sultry (Garland).

Sexton’s scoring less, but doing so more efficiently despite his poor three-point shooting and higher turnover rate. He goes supernova without warning. Garland’s continuing to flourish in his third year, incurring bumps in the road, much like OG, but possessing the scoring and playmaking potency to take over a game – much like OG.

https://twitter.com/cavs/status/1456244843185795079?s=20

Defensively, the three-giraffe lineup (Lauri’s out with H&S Protocols, for this one, though) has been working. When all three are on the floor they allow 99.7 points per possession. Surprisingly, without Lauri, both their offence and defence goes kaput.

The Dean Wade-Ricky Rubio-Sexton-Mobley-Allen fivesome have played only 11 possessions together, but accomplished a +47 per 100 possessions differential. Something to look for tomorrow.

The “crux” of this team’s near-and-distant future, though, is 2nd overall pick of the 2021 NBA draft, Evan Mobley. He’s averaging 13 points on 49% shooting, 8 boards, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal a game. It’s solid for the NBA; great as a rookie.

It seems only a matter of time until it all comes together. In the meantime, you get to wait in fearful anticipation as you watch him D up the best scoring guards with ease:

https://twitter.com/cavs/status/1456067558398775301?s=20

And boogie-woogie his way down the court like he’s Ish Smith:

 

I’m thinking Barnes and Mobley will battle; each seem like perfect counters to the other’s games.

One team’s all-in on welcoming height; the other’s all-in on avoiding it. Both like to muck it up.

This’ll be fun.

Canada Watch

Kevin Pangos finally earned himself a much-deserved NBA spot.

Game Info

Tip-off: 7:30pm EDT | TV: SN1, Sportsnet, BSOH | Radio: SN 590

Toronto’s Lineup

Yuta Watanabe (calf) is out. Pascal Siakam (shoulder) is – oh so close, but – out. Goran might as well be out.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn, Goran Dragic

SG: Gary Trent Jr, David Johnson

SF: SCOTTIE BARNES, Svi Mykhailiuk, Sam Dekker, Justin Champagnie

PF: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Isaac Bonga

C: Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch

Cleveland’s Lineup

Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love (H&S Protocols) are out as is Isaac Okoro (hammy).

PG: Darius Garland, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Pangos

SG: Collin Sexton, Denzel Valentine, RJ Nembhard Jr.

SF: Dean Wade, Dylan Windler, Lamar Stevens

PF: Evan Mobley, Cedi Osman

C: Jarrett Allen, Ed Davis, Tacko Tuesday

The Lineup

Spread: Raptors favoured by 6 points.

Money Line: Raps (-245); Cavs (+194).

Over/Under:  212.5.

WWAB (what would Adon bet): Cleveland struggles to score, especially, without Lauri. I don’t think they slow Toronto down enough to keep it close. I’ll take the Raptors on the spread and the under. The -245 isn’t worth the value.

Bet wisely, pals.

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