Now that the Toronto Raptors have won the season series in an ugly affair against former coach Dwane Casey and the Detroit Pistons, it’s time for them to turn their attention toward the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 38-25 record, but the Raptors have had their number so far this season, with the Raptors looking to sweep the hosts tonight.
Things are trending up for the Raptors, as they are 4-1 since the Jakob Poeltl trade and have won 7 of their last 8. While it may be a byproduct of a soft part of their schedule, keep in mind that they were struggling to win against teams that were not even trying to win.
However, it looks like the Raptors might still be missing Fred VanVleet’s services tonight:
Dad Fred VanVleet 3.0 Congrats to Fred and his family! pic.twitter.com/CTQLQhr2zB— (@AaronBenRose) February 26, 2023
Meanwhile, it hasn’t been fun over at “The Land” lately, as they are currently on a three-game losing streak, including the other night against Atlanta Hawks. Despite the 3-0 head-to-head lead by the Raptors, the games between these two teams have had a playoff atmosphere for the most part.
The odds might be slightly in favour of the Cavaliers, having a day’s rest and waiting at home. The Raptors are coming from a back-to-back(ish), getting a more extended rest than a typical B2B, given the matinee start time yesterday.
Can the Raptors extend their winning streak to five AND sweep the Cavaliers?
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 6:00pm ET
Toronto – Gary Trent Jr, O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes,Jakon Poeltl
Cleveland – Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Toronto – Otto Porter Jr. (toe – out), Fred VanVleet (personal – out), Ron Harper Jr. (G League – out),
Cleveland – Dyland Windler (G League Assignment – out), Mamadi Diakite (G League – out), Isaiah Mobley (G League – out)
Nothing was the same
The Cavs may expect the same type of chaotic defense and clunky offense from the Raptors. However, the fourth game would feel like they are facing this team for the first time this season with Jakob Poeltl’s addition. If anything, the Raptors may have a bit of an “element of surprise” over the last three games, as it hasn’t been the same look thus far.
Fred VanVleet is unlikely to play tonight, giving coach Nurse his fourth different starting lineup in as many games against the Cavs. Nurse has tinkered with his rotation against the Cavs, with Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes seeing time off the bench and utilizing pretty much every bench piece except for Otto Porter Jr. and Jeff Dowtin Jr. Speaking of Dowtin Jr., he’s been getting an extended look lately, pushing Malachi Flynn back into coach Nurse’s doghouse. He’s been making the most of his minutes, earning additional playing time through defense, but it would be great if he could make his perimeter shots (he’s only 1-for-6 over the last three games).
Over at “The Land,” they finally let go of the last remnant of their championship era, waiving Kevin Love as he refused to use Just for Men anymore. He’s been a thorn in the Raptors’ side with his perimeter shooting, floor spacing, and rebounding, so the Raps won’t miss seeing him tonight. The Cavs have also added Raptor old friend Danny Green, and the Raptors haven’t seen the Cavs since Ricky Rubio returned from his injury earlier this year.
The Raptors are an offensively-challenged team, especially on the perimeter. However, the Raptors shot pretty well from deep in three games against the Cavs. As expected, the players who made multiple threes in all three games are Gary Trent Jr., Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby. However, the Raptors may be in trouble, judging from what we’ve seen in the last two games.
VanVleet is with his newborn and will likely miss tonight’s game. Anunoby, on the other hand, just returned from his wrist injury, and his timing is still off, only hitting 1-for-9 from the perimeter since his return. The Raptors averaged at least 12 three-pointers against the Cavs, mainly due to VanVleet’s 3.7 3PM and Anunoby’s 4 3PM in this series.
Pascal Siakam and Malachi Flynn were the only ones who made more than one three-pointer in one of the games against the Cavs, with Flynn making three in their last meeting. Siakam and Barnes are both encouraged to shoot more from the perimeter, especially with VanVleet out, but neither will be shooting the lights out. Precious Achiuwa, for some reason, has been killing possessions by turning down a wide-open three. Dowtin Jr., if lucky, might make one, but he’s much better at pull-ups than a catch-and-shoot trifecta. With Jarret Allen and Evan Mobley patrolling the paint, the Raptors need Anunoby’s shooting back and an outlier shooting form somebody else to keep the defense honest.