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Raptors aim to end losing skid against the Cavaliers: Preview, start time, and more

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The Raptors are back on the road and in search of a win. Tonight they look to even up their season series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It feels like ages since the last time the Toronto Raptors faced the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was actually less than three weeks ago. The Cavs, led by Collin Sexton, handed the Raptors their seventh straight loss, despite the broader acknowledgement that a game against Cleveland was supposed to be in the soft part of Toronto’s schedule. The drubbing felt like the lowest point of the season for the Raptors — but they’ve sunk lower since then.

The Cavaliers are feeling good these days, riding a two-game winning streak. On the flip side, the Raptors are reeling, with a two-game losing streak — on top of several other losing streaks, they have compiled this season. Because of the Raptors’ struggles since COVID-19, injuries, and even some ejections ravaged their roster, they are now threatening to fall past the Cavs to the bottom of the standings.

Cleveland’s young core of Sexton, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen exposed the Raptors the last time they met. Only this time, we don’t even know who will be in the lineup for the Raptors. One thing feels certain: Pascal Siakam will play in the fourth quarter.

For now, here are the rest of the game details.

Where to Watch:

7:30pm on Sportsnet

Lineups:

Toronto — Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher

Cleveland — Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Kevin Love

Injuries:

Toronto — Kyle Lowry (foot – questionable), Rodney Hood (hip – questionable), Paul Watson (health and safety protocols – out), Fred VanVleet (hip – out), Jalen Harris (hip – out), Freddie Gillespie (health and safety protocols – out)

Cleveland — Jarrett Allen (concussion - out), Larry Nance Jr. (illness - out), Dylan Windler (knee – out)

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Reinforcements Coming

The Raptors might have some help tonight, as Kyle Lowry and Rodney Hood were upgraded to “questionable” after missing several games. DeAndre’ Bembry, meanwhile, will likely be back in the lineup after his suspension for leaving the bench to admire the single-leg takedown by OG Anunoby. With Bembry back, that gives the Raptors 8-9 players — we’ll see if it’s possible for Freddie Gillespie and the soon-to-be-signed Khem Birch to make their Raptors debut tonight.

Having Birch and Gillespie would be big for Siakam and Anunoby. They looked fatigued late in the game against the Chicago Bulls, which should not be a surprise as they are asked to do a lot on both ends of the floor in significant minutes.

Also of note: the Raptors enter another set of back-to-back games tonight (9th of the season). Siakam has fared much better in the first game of B2Bs, averaging 23.8 points on 50 percent shooting, including a solid 37 percent from three. This compares sadly to only 17.1 points on 42.3 percent shooting, including 19 percent behind the arc, in the second game of a back-to-back. With the Cavs possibly missing Jarrett Allen and Larry Nance Jr, Siakam should be poised for a good game tonight.

Boucher on the Rise (again)

Chris Boucher is one of the few success stories for the Raptors this season. There have been a few strings of games in which Boucher has looked electric, putting together stat lines that, if nothing else, make him a Fantasy Draft All-star. However, Boucher has also followed up some strong turns by disappearing completely from the court. The question is still there as to would whether he should be part of the Raptors’ long-term future.

For now, Boucher’s game is on the upswing again, as he followed up his bounce-back game against the Lakers with a monster game against the Bulls, dropping 38 points and 19 rebounds. It’s been a while since we saw Boucher play consecutive games with this much fire in his performance. Could it be motivated by the recent signings? Maybe the starting gig, or perhaps playing with an actual point guard (Malachi Flynn, in place of Bembry in the starting lineup)? Let’s see what version of Boucher we get tonight.

Tank Wars

We’re not talking about tanking in the context of a sure-to-be competitive basketball game. But we can’t not talk about it right now. At 20-32, the Raptors sit just a half-game ahead of the Cavs in the standings. Cleveland is 19-32, ahead of the Wizards, Magic, and Pistons. Yes, if you thought looking up the standings relative to the Raptors’ current position was hard to take in, it’s a pretty grim picture to glance down.

For tonight, a Cleveland win would grant the Raptors sole possession of the seventh best lottery odds. On that note, while it feels like the Cavs are tanking based on their record, they’ve been winning at least two out of every five games since the All-Star break. A loss here by the Raptors could really set things in motion one way or the other (though it feels like we’ve been saying that for weeks now). Meanwhile, the Cavs have a softer schedule until these two teams meet again for the last time later this month.