On Tuesday night, the Toronto Raptors will travel to Cleveland to take on the shorthanded Cavaliers in an Eastern Conference matchup.
The Cavaliers have a couple of players currently battling injuries. Coach Mike Brown says he hopes to have C.J. Miles (ankle) and Anderson Verajao (back) back in the lineup soon, but there is no date that he expects either to return. Guard Dion Waiters still hasn’t ran since injuring his knee on a dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers, but says he shouldn’t be out too long. The Cavs are trying to make a run for the postseason, but these injuries won’t help. They were on a six-game winning streak, but the Raptors snapped that streak four nights ago in Toronto, starting a two-game losing skid, so they are seeking revenge and will be looking to get back on track on Tuesday night.
The Raptors are in a completely different position than their opponent, sitting comfortably in the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings. At 31-25, the Raptors are far from the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers at the top of the conference, but are just one of four teams in the conference with a winning record. They have won five of their last six games. Kyle Lowry has been excellent over that stretch, scoring 19.5 points per game, 9.5 assists and has hit 33 of 36 free-throw attempts. DeMar DeRozan has also been playing well for the Raptors, as he is averaging 25 points in ten February games.
When these teams met last Friday night, the Cavaliers took a five-point lead into halftime. In the third quarter, the Raptors outscored the Cavs 37-21 and they ended up winning the game 98-91. Lowry scored just 14 points, but added nine assists and just two turnovers. Kyrie Irving struggled for the Cavs, adding 17 points on just 3-16 shooting and nine assists. The Raptors shot 43 percent compared to the Cavaliers 39 and played some great defense, forcing 14 turnovers and they stole the ball eight times. Luol Deng led the Cavs with 21 points.
In four games since his All-Star MVP performance, Irving is averaging just 17 points on 37 percent shooting and has hit just two of his last 11 three-point attempts. The Cavs are going to need him to step up if they want to climb back into the playoff race, as they currently sit in tenth place in the East and five games out of the eighth and final spot. On the bright side for the boys from Cleveland, first-overall pick Anthony Bennett has been playing well of late, averaging 8.6 points on 47 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds over the past ten games, including two double-doubles. He had nine points in the first meeting between these two teams.
The Pick: The Raptors did a great job of defending the Cavs the last time these two teams met. The Cavaliers’ 42.4 field goal percentage on the season is the worst in the NBA. The Raptors have the eighth best field goal percentage defense in the league (44.5 percent) and held the Cavs to 39 percent Friday. Irving and the offense will need to get going and be more efficient if they want to have a chance to beat the Raptors, who seem to be improving every week. The game is in Cleveland, but the shorthanded Cavs are starting to struggle again. Kyle Lowry will lead the Raptors in to Cleveland and get a 97-89 win.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
When: 7 p.m. ET