Raptors vs Cavs - GameDay Preview - DeRozan and co. Look to Take Down Irving and Cavs

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors look to build off the momentum created by DeMar DeRozan's game-winning shot on Thursday by securing a victory over the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers on "Canadian Forces Night" at the ACC. The HQ's Chris Walder previews tonight's action.

DeMichael DeJordan!

Alright, that might be pushing it just a little bit, but that buzzer-beater in Orlando was something Raptors fans haven't seen in a long, long time.

Now on to tonight's game.

It's the sixth-annual Canadian Forces night at the Air Canada Centre. Over 500 members of the Canadian military are expected to be in attendance. The team will be wearing their camouflage jerseys to commemorate the occasion.

The Cleveland Cavaliers come to Toronto having won three of their last four games, including last night's 113-108 comeback victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Even with this recent success, the team still find themselves 20 games under .500 at 12-32, which is just one game better in the standings than the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the 10-32 Charlotte Bobcats.

Incorporating two rookies (Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller) into a line-up with two second-year players (Kyrie Irving, Canada's own Tristan Thompson) gives the franchise hope for the future (if they can all grow together and stick around for the long haul), but the Cavaliers are too young and too inexperienced to make any noise this season, and it shows in the standings.

Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving was recently named to his first Eastern Conference all-star team. Through 32 games, Irving is averaging 23.7 points (sixth in the NBA), 3.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Head coaches didn't hold the Cavaliers poor record and his missed games against him during the selection process, as Kyrie undoubtedly deserved a spot as a reserve. Well-deserved.


The Raptors lead the season series 1-0 after knocking off the Cavaliers 133-99 back in December. Jose Calderon had 23 points, five rebounds and six assists in a winning effort.

Anderson Varejao, who torched Toronto for 22 points (including 16 free-throw attempts) and 10 rebounds in their last meeting, will miss the rest of the regular season after a blood clot was discovered in his lungs.

3 KEYS TO THE GAME

1) Stop Blowing Leads.....Please

Against the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and now the Orlando Magic, the Raptors have had reasonable leads in each of those mentioned games before blowing them in the final 12-20 minutes of action.

Whether it's a mental issue, bad play-calling or lack of motivation, this is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

The Cavaliers may be weaker opposition, but allowing them to stay in this game could bite Toronto in the butt, especially with Kyrie Irving on the court.

Toronto's last three losses (Heat, 76ers, Bulls) all went to overtime, and without a DeRozan buzzer-beater on Thursday, there could have very well been a fourth thrown in as well.

2) Maintain Solid Defense

Over the first 23 games of the season (4-19), Toronto was giving up nearly 103 points a game to its opposition. Over the last 20 games (12-8), the team has shaved nearly six points off that number to 96.5 a game.

Over the last eight games of this series (Raptors are 6-2), the Cavaliers have been held to just 91.8 points.

Cleveland ranks in the bottom-half of the league in scoring (19th, 95.5) this season, and outside of Irving, the roster has few players who can really light it up on their own.

Keeping Kyrie at bay will be crucial, but playing solid team defense, getting hands in the faces of shooters, locking down the paint and forcing the Cavs to make careless turnovers (14.0 a game) will be the top priority.

3) More Agressive Kyle Lowry

Lowry had a rough day at the office Thursday in Orlando.

He took just three shots (all three-pointers), hitting one and finishing with more turnovers (4) than points (3).

In fact, over the last three games, 10 of his 17 shot atttempts have been from behind-the-arc.

That's all fine and dandy (39.4% from that part of the court), but I'm really starting to miss the aggressive Kyle Lowry who took the ball to the basket and either dished out to teammates for open looks or tried to draw fouls. These days, it seems Lowry is perfectly complacent with taking three-pointers, rather than making an impact in other ways.

This game against Cleveland is the perfect opportunity for Kyle to make a statement, especially against an all-star guard like Irving.
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