LAST TIME OUT
The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t start well against the New York Knicks on Sunday. But behind a big second half from enigmatic point guard Jarrett Jack, the Cavaliers came back from a double-digit deficit and ultimately took down the Knicks by a final score of 106-100. Jack finished with a season-high 31 points, with Dion Waiters adding 22.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Toronto Raptors
Record: 39-30 (18-16 away)
Tipoff: 7 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio/NBA League Pass
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: Raptors 99, Cavaliers 93 on Feb. 25
Opponent’s Blog: Raptors Rapture
Raptors: F Patrick Patterson (OUT-elbow), F Amir Johnson (probable-knee)
Cavaliers: G Kyrie Irving (OUT-bicep strain), G Sergey Karasev (DAY-TO-DAY, knee), G C.J. Miles (questionable – ankle), F Anthony Bennett (OUT-knee), G Carrick Felix (OUT-knee)
Building off Sunday
It can be argued that Sunday was the most impressive Cleveland victory of the season. The Knicks aren’t as good as the Thunder and the win wasn’t as weirdly satisfying as Cleveland’s win over Detroit, but it’s up there. Twice this season that Knicks have barraged the Cavaliers with three-pointers and left the Cavaliers on the wrong end of a beat down. And it came with Jarrett Jack playing his best game of the season.
The question is now this: How do the Cavaliers build off this win? Toronto is a team in the East’s upper-echelon, but they aren’t elite. This game, at Quicken Loans Arena, is winnable for the Cavaliers. And at the very least, Cleveland should at least build off Sunday’s win into a solid performance.
Stopping DeMar DeRozan
The last time these teams matched up, DeMar DeRozan went off. In 40 minutes, DeRozan scored 33 points and was the game’s high-scorer. He was largely defended by Luol Deng, who has struggled on defense since coming over from Chicago. As the focal point of Toronto’s offense, the Cavaliers will need to slow DeRozan to keep in check if they want to win – that’s obvious. But it’s also the Cavaliers’ best chance to slow down a Raptor. It’s hard to see Jack slowing down Kyle Lowry and while Dion Waiters has improved on defense, Terrence Ross is a tough matchup for him.
This game also will serve as a case study for the Cavaliers defense. In the past week, the Cleveland defense has struggled to defend Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Granted, DeRozan isn’t in the same league as that trio. But considering the success he had the success he had against the Cavaliers his last time out, it’s a matchup worth watching.
Over the final few games of the season, perhaps no Cavalier has more on the line than Tristan Thompson. Thompson isn’t going to be extended like Kyrie Irving will be this summer and there is a solid contingent of Cavaliers fans that would want to see Thompson moved to the bench by next season. And with his recent semi-lackluster play, Thompson has a lot to prove.
Tonight serves a decent test for Thompson. He’ll be battling Amir Johnson in the post, as well as Jonas Valanciunas. These are two players Thompson stylistically matches up well against. If he can get on track tonight, it could set him up for the rest of the season.
The Raptors aren’t the Knicks, but there are some similarities. They are loaded with outside scoring (like the Knicks) but they have better defense and a competent point guard. It’s hard to see Jack recreating his Golden State-esque performance from Sunday and Toronto’s pinpoint offense poses serious problems for Cleveland. In the end, Toronto takes this game by a final score of 101-94.