Sometimes, just the thing you need to get things settled down is a blowout win against a hapless opponent. Enter: The Cleveland Cavaliers.
Let’s get to the game details:
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:00 PM EST
Toronto: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Greg Monroe
Cleveland: Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr., David Nwaba, Collin Sexton
Toronto: Kyle Lowry (left thigh contusion, questionable), Serge Ibaka (swollen right knee, questionable), Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb, out)
Cleveland: Matthew Dellavedova (left knee soreness, questionable), John Henson (left wrist surgery, out), Kevin Love (left foot surgery, out), Tristan Thompson (left foot sprain, out), JR Smith (exiled)
Avoid the Trap
The Cavaliers are tied for the third-worst record in the NBA at 8-24, are still without their best player in Kevin Love, and have traded away Kyle Korver and George Hill and exiled JR Smith. They are, in a word, bad, and the Raptors are, in a word, veryverygood. (I’m sure that's a word.)
But we all know how a “trap game” works.
The Raptors may well be looking ahead to Saturday, when they play the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly — or looking ahead to Christmas They may well be focused on their injuries and health. They may be overlooking or outright disregarding the Cavs, who don’t seem like much of a threat on paper.
And that doesn’t usually end well in the NBA. The Cavs have a terrible record but, as they showed the other night in beating Indiana in the final seconds, if you let a team hang around, anything can happen.
The Raptors need to keep the distractions to a minimum and focus on getting up on the Cavaliers early.
The Raptors have still only had their core 12 players together for one game this season, and it sounds Kyle Lowry has already been ruled out of this one (along with Jonas Valanciunas), and possibly Ibaka as well.
Nurse says he doesn't expect Lowry to play in this weekend's back to back. Ibaka is questionable.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 20, 2018
On Wednesday, Norman Powell got banged up early (in his first game back from a long absence) and Danny Green got banged up late (he’s the only Raptor to start every game this season).
The Raptors have three full days off after Saturday, and it would be great if the team could go into it as healthy as possible, and come back at close to full strength on Boxing Day. Green, in particular, needs to avoid the injury bug — he’s gotten his eye poked and been knocked around a lot lately, and he’s been such an important piece at both ends of the floor for Toronto (still leading the league in net rating at 16.1) that the Raptors can’t afford to lose him.
Hit the Glass
The last time these two teams met, Tristan Thompson hauled in 19 rebounds — and that was when the Raptors had a fully healthy frontcourt. Thompson is on the injured list tonight, but Cleveland still has the 8th-best offensive rebounding rate in the league, and for a young team without a lot of true scorers, manufacturing second-chance points is critical. The Raptors, meanwhile, are the 24th-best defensive rebounding team in the NBA.
With Jonas Valanciunas on the shelf, the Raptors are without their best rebounder which means everyone needs to chip in on the glass. The gang-rebounding efforts have been surprisingly solid since JV went down; the Raptors outrebounded both the Nuggets and the Pacers, and were only a -1 against the Trailblazers. Kawhi Leonard has been a beast on the boards, averaging 10 per game since the Valanciunas injury; hopefully that continues tonight.