One step closer: Cavs will look to move up with win against Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton drives and shoots inside. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton drives and shoots inside. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /
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The Cleveland Cavaliers began the season hopeful that a return to playoff basketball would be on the horizon. Nearly three seasons removed from their last appearance, they were poised to make some noise in the “weak” Eastern Conference and that goal seemed within reach.

Well, while this season hasn’t gone as they would have hoped thus far, Cleveland has a fighting chance to make it in via the play-in tournament or more.

Currently 12th in the standings at 19-32, the Cleveland-based franchise is slowly but surely returning to full strength. Kevin Love, who has battled through injury for most of the season has returned and provided a much needed spark to the starting lineup.

It is with his return, that Cleveland finally feels within arms reach of clinching that elusive playoff berth, which would be its first in either post-LeBron James era.

Although the team is still without two of its best players in Jarrett Allen and Larry Nance Jr. as well as a promising young player in Dylan Windler, they have a clear path to the postseason.

The Cavs can trade places with the Toronto Raptors with a win Saturday night.

A win Saturday night against the Raptors (20-32) at home in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse can vault the Cavaliers up one spot in the standings and one step closer to accomplishing their goal.

The Raptors, only two seasons removed from winning an NBA title, are in the midst of a down year and have underachieved to this point in the season. This is a winnable game for the Cavs.

With no Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry possibly missing the upcoming game, Cleveland must strike while the opportunity is there. Coming off two very good back-to-back wins against the likes of the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland will look to bring the action early and often.

Collin Sexton, fresh off a 27-point performance, should look to find his shot immediately in this one. With VanVleet in street clothes, Sexton may have a favorable matchup in this one. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Alabama product put up north of 30 points by the end of the game.

Sexton isn’t the only Cavalier that could have a big impact in this game as Darius Garland is averaging 18.3 points to go along with 5.8 assists since the All-Star break. DG has been more aggressive as of late and I’d expect more of the same going forward. Expect Garland to finish with somewhere around 20 points and 6 assists.

Garland will not only look Sexton’s way but in Love’s direction as well. The big man, although on a minutes restriction, has started to round back into form as we have seen glimpses of the player that helped win Cleveland’s only championship.

This may be a tough matchup for him though as Pascal Siakam is one of the game’s premier bigs and is so versatile. Siakam along with up and comer Chris Boucher, form a dangerous frontcourt.

Dean Wade will also have his hands full defending Toronto’s dangerous duo. That leaves my prediction for X-factor for Saturday night’s game: Isaac Okoro.

Ice as they affectionately call him, has been adding more on the offensive end as of late. He’s managed to put up a cool 13 points per game over the team’s last 4 outings. If Okoro can replicate his recent performances in this one, the Cavs may end up winning their third straight.

Add in the production that the Cavaliers may get from the suddenly “deep” bench, and Cleveland could find themselves running away with this one. Taurean Prince has found his groove (15.3 points a game since April began) and Isaiah Hartenstein (10.0 points, 9.6 rebounds as a Cav) may be Cleveland’s backup center of the future. And don’t forget the tough-as-nails Matthew Dellavedova who has provided playmaking off the bench.

Prediction: A Cavs W

The Cavaliers overwhelm the Raptors with ball movement and depth in this one as they pick up a gritty win by the score of 116-109 to pick up their third straight victory and send Toronto home with their third straight loss to move up to 11th place in the crowded race for playoff contention.

As a result, naturally, the Cavs would be covering as well, with these odds courtesy of The Action Network; you can view more on those here, for what it’s worth.

In terms of the top performer for this one, I’m going with Sexton with the below stat line.

Player of the Game: Collin Sexton: 32 points, 5 assists and 2 rebounds

Next. Garland's deep shooting is setting up the rest of his game. dark

It definitely seems realistic that we’ll see the Cavs keep their winning ways this week going and Sexton should cruise here.