Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Game 55: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors Preview

LAST TIME OUT

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been off since Wednesday, when they defeated the Orlando Magic by a score of 101-93.  The Cavaliers got ahead early and looked well on their way to an easy victory on their home floor. But, after the half, the Cavaliers looked out of sorts and almost blew their lead. But behind some solid work from Kyrie Irving and others, the Cavaliers were able to win by a final score of 101-93.

THIS TIME UP

The Opponent: Toronto Drakes Raptors

Record: 29-25

Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada

Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass

Where you can listen: WTAM 1100

Previous Matchup:

Opponent’s Blog: Raptors Rapture

Injury Report

Raptors: None

Cavaliers: C Anderson Varejao (OUT – back), G C.J. Miles (OUT – ankle), G Dion Waiters (Out – hyperextended left knee)

The debut of Spencer Hawes

As you may know, the Cavaliers acquired center Spencer Hawes from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for two second round picks, Earl Clark (whom they released) and center Henry Sims. Hawes, who likely will make his debut in Toronto, should immediately help with the Cavaliers spacing. For the season, he is shooting 39.9 percent from three and has a true shooting percentage of 54.6. The Cavaliers should immediately benefit from this, as the Cavaliers have some issues with their bigs making shots outside of the paint. This is still true despite that Tyler Zeller has shown some range of late and Anderson Varejao has become a threat from the elbow.

The downside of Hawes is that he’s an awful defender. While he stands seven feet, he will never be mistaken for a rim protector or be able to slow down opposing players on the block. Statistically, Hawes is worse on defense than both Zeller and Varejao. Offensively, he may be a natural fit alongside Tristan Thompson, but defensively he’s going to be a minus every time he steps on the floor. His debut won’t give us all the answers, but it will give an idea of if his offense can help make up for his many defensive shortcomings.

Where will the points come from?

The Cavaliers will be without three of their top six scorers  against the Raptors tonight. This is the second game in row that they will be without Dion Waiters and his absence (as well as Miles’) leads to this question: Where will the Cavaliers get their scoring from tonight? Against Orlando, every starter scored in double-figures. The Cavaliers were also able to score 101 points despite shooting 41.3 percent from the field. On the downside, the Cleveland bench only scored 20 points without Waiters and Miles.

The ultimately key for the Cavaliers was that they were able to get to the line 37 times against the Magic. The Cavaliers will need to continue getting to the line and they will need to get Jonas Valanciunas and the other Toronto bigs into foul trouble early. One player who can help with this is Irving, who only went to the line four times against the Magic. For the season, he is shooting 85.5 percent from the field. If he can get to the line (and make his free throws) it will go along way to giving the Cavaliers the scoring punch they are going to need.

And how will the Cavaliers stop the Raptors cuts?

Per Synergy Sports, teams are shooting 64.9 percent against the Cavaliers off cuts. It’s by far the Cavaliers worst defense category and it just so happens that the Cavaliers are facing a team in Toronto that is built to beat the Cavaliers by exploiting this weakness. Their backcourt features a point guard solid at finding the open man (Kyle Lowry, who should have been an All-Star, DeMar DeRozen (who was an All-Star) and Terrence Ross. For the season the Raptors – lead by this trio – are shooting 62.2 percent off cuts. The two videos below exemplify how dangerous Toronto is.

What complicates this for Cleveland is that Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles are both out with injury. While not perfect, these are two of the Cavaliers most active wing defenders. Their absence means that Jarrett Jack, Matthew Dellavedova and possibly Alonzo Gee will be tasked with slowing down the Raptors off the ball. Ultimately, it’s hard to see how the Cavaliers will fare against this Toronto offense.

Prediction

Expect the Cavaliers to struggle in Toronto. Cleveland definitely has momentum and are playing some of the best basketball that they have played all season. But without Waiters, Varejao and Miles out, the Cavaliers will be without three of their best players and the Raptors aren’t the Magic. Toronto is the third best team in the East for a reason. Expect Toronto to control the pace of the game and the Cavaliers don’t have an answer for Toronto’s offense. As result, expect Toronto to take down the Cavaliers by a final score of 101-92.

Tags: Anderson Varejao C.J. Miles Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters Kyrie Irving Spencer Hawes

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