narrow victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors head to Cleveland to face LeBron James and his legion of All-Stars. Toronto (10-2) completed their seven game homestand with a 124-83 dismantling of Milwaukee (7-6) as five players ended the night in double digits, including Lou Williams who scored a season-high 22 points. As the score got out of hand, Coach Casey gave the green light to Brazilian rookie Bruno Caboclo for his inaugural minutes. His first basket was memorable as he made an alley-oop slam courtesy of Greivis Vasquez. He also added two 3s. Not bad kid.
Tonight’s contest against Cleveland (5-6) will be a tall order. There is no beating around the bush, the Raptors need flawless execution against the star-studded Cavaliers to walk out of Ohio with a win. LeBron and friends are middling with a sub .500 record but are in need for a victory after a disappointing loss to the Washington Wizards. This should be an entertaining match and could be a potential preview of the Eastern Conference finals.
Cage’s Keys to the Game:
Spread the Floor:
The ball movement against Milwaukee last night was akin to the San Antonio Spurs. The Raptors were in perpetual motion, the rock was wheeling around and everyone made the extra pass for a basket. Toronto needs to echo that strategy against a Cavaliers squad that has struggled to defend the 3. Cleveland ranks near the bottom in opponent 3-point field goal percentage (.357) and opponent field goal percentage (.484). Their defense has been suspect to say the least in the young season however they are NBA leaders in limiting opponent free throws (18.4) – an area that the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan love to exploit. Expect coach Casey to advocate the perimeter game.
Toronto’s deep and talented bench obliterated the Bucks as Vasquez scored 11 points, Caboclo added eight and Landry Fields and Patrick Patterson combined for 10 points. The aforementioned Williams, always capable of a big game, hit contested shot after contested shot from downtown. Heck, even Greg “the steamroller” Stiemsa had a basket. Casey has done a fantastic job of balancing the minutes of his starters and bench and has featured hybrid second units to capitalize against the opposition’s size and speed. The starters need to maintain their consistent offensive pedigree but the bench will need to be equally if not more potent against a Cavaliers squad that has yet to find its defensive mojo.
On paper, the Cleveland Cavaliers look unbeatable. I mean, their “worst” starter is Anderson Varejao and he’s pretty serviceable on both sides of the floor. The Raptors need to ignore the stage and not get intimidated by James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. We know the starting talent is hard to match but the Raptors need to stick to their bread and butter and forget about the hype. Play the team game, distribute the offensive output and be intensive. They are a 5-6 team for a reason.
X-Factor: Terrence Ross
Ross has been impressive in his past two matches and over his last five games he has averaged 12.4 points, 1.4 assists and 0.8 steals on .489% shooting. The 23-year-old has had the hot hand as of late and has connected on nearly half of his three point attempts (.462), including a 3-5 night against Milwaukee. As discussed earlier, Cleveland has had fits defending long-range bombing. The Oregon native needs to quiet the crowd with his outside shooting.