The Cavs (19-13) and Raptors (14-15) meet for the second time this season, under the strangest of circumstances. The first game in early November saw a thrilling back and forth between rookies Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley, but Darius Garland’s go ahead free throws turned out to be the difference as Cleveland won by one in Toronto. Garland is one of the few regulars scheduled to play tonight. He’s probably the best player on the court, and will receive some serious all-star consideration in a month.
“The Land” (are they still referred to as that?) has not made the playoffs without LeBron James since the 1997-98 season. At that time, Shawn Kemp was just getting comfortable after being traded from Seattle (a three-way trade involving Terrell Brandon which turned out to be a mistake) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a rookie. The Cavs are one of the pleasant surprises in the NBA and a league pass darling with the East’s fifth best record. This is despite Collin Sexton’s season ending knee injury. J.B. Bickerstaff has agreed to a contract extension that goes until 2027. There has been some real progress.
The Raptors have not played since last Saturday’s win against something that was not Golden State. Since then, games against Orlando and Chicago have been postponed. Toronto now has an NBA high 11 players in health and safety protocols. Daniel Oturu’s 10-day hardship signing became official this morning, giving the Raps four replacement players and four regulars. There was some confusion floating around with media that five regulars were the requirement, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We’ll learn quite a bit about the new guys tonight.
My wish aligns with many, which is for this game to be postponed. However as I’m writing this, all systems are a go. Here’s my Jamaican reaction (*kisses teeth*)
Probably career-highs for Dalano Banton, Yuta Watanabe and the replacement guys. Canadian Kevin Pangos scored five points in eight minutes in the Cavs last game vs Boston. The only ray of sunshine with so many out is that guys who have been grinding get an opportunity to raise some eyebrows.
Tip-Off: 6pm EST | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: Sportsnet 590
Here’s a nice breakdown, which could be altered by game time. 21 guys total are on the injury list.
Is this the longest injury report you've ever seen? pic.twitter.com/gFUCZKEgA7
— 𝐀𝐚𝐫𝐨𝐧 𝐑𝐨𝐬𝐞 (@AaronBenRose) December 26, 2021
PG: Dalano Banton, Tremont Waters
SG: Svi Mykhailiuk
SF: Yuta Watanabe
PF: D.J Wilson, Juwan Morgan
C: Chris Boucher, Daniel Oturu
PG: Darius Garland, Kevin Pangos
SG: Ricky Rubio, Denzel Valentine
SF: Lauri Markkanen, Justin Anderson, Trevon Scott
PF: Dean Wade, Kevin Love
C: Tacko Fall, Luke Kornet
The Cavs are favoured by 8.5 points. Over/Under is 204.5
My over/under prediction (8-3 this season): Under based on lack of familiarity all around.