The Raptors have a huge task ahead of them in finding a way to take down the second best team in the East. Even though it might seem impossible, it definitely can be done.
Last time these teams faced off it came down to the wire, with the Raptors taking the win 124-121.
In their previous clash, it took the entire team to get involved to take down the Cavaliers. Former Raptor Pascal Siakam put up an impressive stat line of 36 points, five rebounds and two assists. RJ Barrett and Scottie Barnes also came to hoop, putting up 20 points of their own. Both teams were pretty evenly matched in this game, the difference maker was the free throws. Toronto shot 40 free throws compared to the Cavaliers 26. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Raptors approach the second seed in the east without players like Siakam and Schröder.
The “BBQ” core will have to show up tonight if they want any chance at winning. In their last match-up, all three of them came to play combining for 53 points. Now that Siakam is gone, this has to be an even higher total. They should look to repeat what they did last time to the Cavaliers, attack the paint and draw fouls. The Cavaliers are currently committing 18.6 personal fouls per game, this is something the Raptors can capitalize on. Players like Barnes and Barrett should look to use their size and strength to help them get down low and force the Cavaliers to foul.
Another positive for the Raptors is that the Cavaliers are currently number one ranked for giving up assists to their opponents, and the Raptors are throwing out around 29 assists per game, which places them second in the NBA. Team ball will be one of the biggest keys to getting this win. Use the size to penetrate the paint, look for the foul or kick out to an open shooter. The Cavaliers are also 3rd in points allowed per game sitting at 109.6, if the Raptors can take advantage of this, they can stay ahead.
Defensively the Raptors will have to worry about Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell is currently averaging 28.5 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists. Slowing him down will be one of the keys to this game. The Raptors should have Barnes guarding Mitchell, with his size and strength this can help to not only tire Mitchell out but help him throw him off his game. Mitchell also likes to frequent the pick and roll, it’s going to be critical that if the switch happens, the Raptors have someone bigger they can switch with and can quickly close out on him before he starts to head for the basket.
It’s going to be a tough one for Toronto, but if they can manage to take advantage of the Cavaliers weaknesses, they can keep this one close, hopefully pull out the win and finally land that pizza party!
Tip-Off: 7:30 pm EST | TV: TSN Network | Radio: SN 590
PG: Immanuel Quickley
SG: Gary Trent Jr , Gradey Dick, Ochai Agbaji
SF: RJ Barrett, Bruce Brown, Jalen McDaniels, Jordan Nwora, Garrett Temple
PF: Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher
C: Jakob Poeltl, Kelly Olynyk
Inactive: Javon Freeman-Liberty (Two-Way), Markquis Nowell (Two-Way)
PG: Darius Garland, Caris LeVert, Craig Porter
SG: Donovan Mitchell, Sam Merrill
SF: Max Strus, Isaac Okoro,
PF: Evan Mobley, Georges Niang
C: Jarrett Allen, Dean Wade, Damian Jones
Inactive: Tristan Thompson (Suspension), Emoni Bates (Two-Way), Ty Jerome (Right Ankle), Isaiah Mobley (Two-Way)
Toronto is set as the underdogs at +265, the O/U is 229.