Tonight, the Toronto Raptors return home to face the Cleveland Cavaliers. The new look Cavs are on a 2-game winning streak coming off some big wins against the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks, however they are still well out of playoff contention. The Raptors are currently four games out of the 8th spot, thanks in part to the Celtics losing six in a row. DeMar DeRozan finally showed up against the Orlando Magic and came out strong dropping 22 points while dishing out 7 assists. I don’t think we can forget about that game-winner though…that was a thing of beauty! First-time All Star Kyrie Irving and Canadian-born Tristan Thompson make their way into the Air Canada Centre hoping to knock off the hometown Raptors and extend their winning streak to three games.
The Cage’s 5 Key’s to the game
1. Home Court Advantage
Regardless of what team the Raptors are playing, they always have fans there to back them up, especially when the game is winnable. Add to the fact that Thompson is the highest Canadian draft pick, people will want to see his progression. The crowd will be buzzing tonight, with the Air Canada Centre featuring two teams loaded with young talent. The Raptors haven’t played at home since January 20th against the Los Angeles Lakers, expect Raptor nation to be hungry… pizza anyone?
2. Contain the Dark Knight
First-time All Star Kyrie Irving has been balling out of his mind over the past couple games. He’s averaged 37.5 points in the Cavaliers last two wins coming into tonight’s game against the Raptors. Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry will have their hands full trying to deal with this ultra-crafty ball handler who is also a lights out shooter. They held him to 23 points the last time these two teams met, but many things have changed since then.
3. Protect The Rock
Plain and simple, don’t turnover the ball. This is how the Raptors let teams who shouldn’t compete with us…compete! This means Kyle Lowry can’t have another 4 or 5-turnover game, because the Cavs also have athletic wings that can run the court and hit the three.
4. Battle Down Low
It’s going to be a battle of the lefty power-forwards down low tonight with Ed Davis matched up on Thompson. The Cavs are without Anderson Varejao for the remainder of the season but are still 5th in the league on the offensive glass. The Cavs also recently acquired Marreese Speights from the Memphis Grizzlies, so the Raptors will have their hands full in the paint.
5. Believe You’re the Better Team
It’s hard to say now based on individual talents, but as a team the Raptors win hands-down. On stats alone, the Cavaliers are one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA (ranking 28th in field goal percentage). They are also one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, allowing opponents to shoot a league high 47.1% from the field. The Raptors are a good team when they want to be so they need to come out with the mindset and have the pedigree to dominate from tip-off till the final buzzer.
Tonight’s X-Factor is Raptors goes to Sir Landry Fields. The last few games Fields has been nearly invisible on the box scor, however he played a great game defensively in Miami, but wasn’t much of a factor against Orlando. Landry has the size advantage against the wings of the Cavaliers so he shouldn’t have a problem hitting the boards tonight and getting his confidence up early. I really hope he shoots a couple threes, just to see how he reacts.
Photo Cred: Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE