The Cleveland Cavaliers will head up north across the border to take on the Toronto Raptors on Friday at the Air Canada Centre. It’s a battle of the bottom feeders as both teams are already looking ahead to the NBA Lottery. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. for the teams that lost their superstar players to the lure of the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. Since then the Raptors have won five of six matchups against the Cavaliers and will be going for the season sweep on Friday.
2011-12 NBA statistics according to John Hollinger:
Cavaliers (17-35, 8-17 away):
Offensive Efficiency (number of points per 100 possessions) – 98.3 (26th)
Pace (number of possessions per 48 minutes) – 94.3 (11th)
Turnover Ratio (percentage of team’s possessions that end in turnovers) – 25.1 (20th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage (combines 2-point shots with 3-point shots) – 46.4 (28th)
Defensive Efficiency (number of points allowed per 100 possessions) – 105.3 (26th)
Raptors (20-35, 11-17 home):
Offensive Efficiency – 99.4 (24th)
Pace – 92.0 (24th)
Turnover Ratio – 25.6 (24th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage – 47.9 (20th)
Defensive Efficiency – 102.1 (15th)
Since the departure of LeBron James from the Cavaliers and Chris Bosh from the Raptors, both teams have had to look toward another player to build their team around. For the Cavaliers it has been Kyrie Irving, who will miss the game against the Raptors due to a right shoulder injury.
The Raptors have found a star in Andrea Bargani, whose numbers have slightly increased after Bosh went to the Heat. Antawn Jamison and company will have to pester Bargani all night long if Cleveland wants to come away with a win.
A matchup that has the potential of being in favor of Cleveland is Tristan Thompson against Raptors center Aaron Gray. If Thompson positions himself in the key and outrebounds Gray, then it could turn into a career night for the rookie.
Although Thompson has not performed very well against the Raptors this season, the absences of Irving and Anderson Varejao will give Thompson more opportunities to establish himself down low. Donald Sloan and Anthony Parker should look for Thompson down low.
The Cavaliers have struggled though with distributing the ball ever since the departure of Ramon Sessions, one of the Cavaliers assist leaders this season. Sessions, who was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers right before the deadline, was one of Cleveland’s top-five players. Cleveland has struggled greatly since the trade, going 1-10.
Speaking of cold streaks, the Cavaliers losing streak has reached a season peak of nine games. Losing by an average of 18.4 points during the streak, the Cavaliers have looked to many players to step up without much luck. Sloan, Lester Hudson and Manny Harris have filled voids in the bench, but nothing close to the production the Cavaliers are missing from Irving, Sessions, Varejao and Daniel Gibson.
On the other hand, the Raptors have been on a hot streak, winning three games in a row against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards. The Raptors also recorded an impressive win against the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night.
If the Cavaliers don’t take advantage of the Thompson-Gray matchup, the Cavaliers will most likely have their losing streak reach double digits.