The questions were flying, free and easy, before tonight’s Raptors vs. Cavaliers matchup. Toronto’s head coach Nick Nurse was asked about Greg Monroe’s play, the flow of the team’s offense, the quick learning of Pascal Siakam at centre, the struggles of OG Anunoby, and even the brute strength of Kawhi Leonard. (To quote Nurse: “He is an extremely strong....... person.”)
Not much was said of the Cavaliers — which still feels funny to consider. In this very same calendar year, the Cavaliers were once all Toronto could talk about. They (or more accurately, LeBron James) were in the way of the Raptors’ ascendancy, and it was a terrible thing to see. I know I hated it, personally.
But now, as we all know, the Cavaliers are not what they once were. LeBron is gone, and he left behind a crater of a team bereft of any real (healthy) NBA talent. Cleveland is without Kevin Love, and they’ve let JR Smith just walk away. They still employ guys like Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. but, at 8-24 on the season, it’s clear they aren’t getting it done for the Cavs these days. Life comes at you fast, as they say.
Anyway, the story for the Raptors tonight is all about who will play with who, and how. On Wednesday against Indiana, it was the Kawhi Show for long stretches before Siakam got it going, and the rag-tag bench (Lorenzo Brown! Malachi Richardson! Chris Boucher!) did just enough to help the comeback effort. What will happen tonight? We will literally have to wait and see — even Nurse himself sounded unsure before tip-off — knowing only that Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and now Danny Green will be absent.
Our guy Josh Kern had some things to say about the game this morning in our full Raps-Cavs preview. The updated details are below. Now, let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:00pm EST
Toronto: Kawhi Leonard, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
Cleveland: Rodney Hood, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr., David Nwaba, Collin Sexton
Toronto: Kyle Lowry (left thigh contusion, out), Serge Ibaka (swollen right knee, out), Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb, out), Danny Green (left knee contusion)
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 (interplanetary journey)