The Raptors are being thrown right into the Eastern Conference fire, as their first seven games are all against teams that at least made the play-in last season and have playoff aspirations again.
First up are the Cavs, who won the season series 3-1 last season but barely missed the playoffs. Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley were a tight one-two in the Rookie of the Year race and provided some fun battles against each other.
This is year two of “Vision 6-9.” Remember how discombobulated the Raptors looked in last season’s opener against the Wizards? Toronto shot 30 percent from the field with 19 turnovers in that game. That was a team without Pascal Siakam (shoulder surgery) and getting used to life without Kyle Lowry for the first time in nine years. Everything leading up to this season has preached continuity. Nick Nurse mentioned during the preseason that the familiarity his players have with everything is night and day compared to last year. Guys like Precious Achiuwa and Dalano Banton are perfect examples. That SHOULD result in a much better game this time around.
Meanwhile Cleveland is showcasing their shiny new acquisition that is Donovan Mitchell, a three time all-star. Pairing up with fellow all-star Darius Garland in the backcourt will be a fascinating watch, testing Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. right away. Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen (another all-star) round out an extremely potent starting line-up. Kevin Love’s all-star days are behind him but he finished second in sixth man of the year voting last year. The talent is undeniable.
Some trivia stuff: This is the 11th consecutive year that the Raptors open their season as the home team. I have to word it that way to include Tampa, sorry. The last time Toronto began a season as the road team was ironically against Cleveland in 2011-12, where they spoiled Kyrie Irving’s NBA debut. Overall, the Raptors are 16-11 in season openers but have lost their last two.
Tip-Off: 7:30 pm EDT | TV: TSN 1/3/4 | Radio: TSN Radio 1050
Ricky Rubio (torn ACL), Dylan Windler (ankle sprain) and Mamadi Diakite (not with team) are all out.
PG: Darius Garland, Raul Neto
SG: Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Didi Louzada
SF: Caris LeVert, Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens
PF: Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, Dean Wade, Isaiah Mobley
C: Jarrett Allen, Robin Lopez
Malachi Flynn missed the last four preseason games with a fractured cheekbone but is now available. Chris Boucher (hamstring) is doubtful. Khem Birch is out with knee swelling, but not the same knee he had surgery on. Otto Porter Jr. (hamstring) remains out.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn
SG: Gary Trent Jr., Jeff Dowtin Jr., Ron Harper Jr.
SF: O.G. Anunoby, Justin Champagnie
PF: Scottie Barnes, Thaddeus Young, Juancho Hernangomez
C: Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, Christian Koloko
Toronto is favoured by 2.5 points. Over/Under is 214.5.