Tonight the Toronto Raptors face LeBron James and the rising Cleveland Cavaliers.
To add fuel to the fire, all-star Kyle Lowry makes his return after resting nagging injuries. Both teams are coming off of victories against less than stellar opponents (Sixers &Celtics) and after the recent slump for Toronto it appears that they’ll be facing an uphill battle tonight. The Cavs lead the series against the Raptors this series 2-1, therefore Toronto must be cognizant of tie breaker situations when it comes down to battling for final playoff position. In their last game against the Cavs, DeMar DeRozan was out due to his groin injury and Toronto lost 105-101. LeBron had a monster 35 points and Jonas Valanciunas had a strong double-double finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Cage’s Keys to the Game:
Derail the L-Train – LeBron James
After having his beloved King James title stripped from him against the Rockets, LeBron is focused and back into playoff mode. Seriously. He’s averaged 35.3 ppg over his last three games played. The Raptors will be in the playoffs this season, so they better be prepared to face LeBron at his best because this game could be a huge difference maker when things get down to the nitty gritty.
To beat the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, the Raptors need to get back to playing Raptors basketball; which means moving the rock and finding the open man. The Raptors leading assist man, Lowry returns adding a spark that the Raptors will definitely need to put it to Cleveland. Toronto showed their ability to make the extra pass and get great looks for their teammates in their last outing against the Sixers racking up 24 assists in the win. The Sixers are nowhere near as good as the Cavs, but it’s not about the level of talent that allowed the Raptors to be successful, it was their pedigree in playing team basketball.
High Percentage Looks
The Raptors have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot by resorting to perimeter oriented offence. Often when Toronto starts the game slow, they believe that chucking is the way back into the game; which is very rarely the case. The Cavs have high energy big men, but none intimidating enough to completely change a game from the interior. Lou Williams and DeRozan will need to start their game in the paint to really open things up for their teammates. Toronto will need to adjust to the pressure of pesky defenders like Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova, use their tendencies to overcommit on D to their advantage and get good looks.
Kyle Lowry DeMar DeRozan After resting for a few games, KLow7 makes his much anticipated return against the 4th place Cavaliers. Hopefully his time watching from the bench allowed Lowry to find a different approach to the game after putting up un-Lowry-like numbers before he was shut down. Expect a rejuvenated Lowry to attack and try to get his teammates involved early on. Welcome back KLow. With Kyle Lowry not yet ready to make a reutrn to the lineup, DeRozan is tonight’s X-factor. After putting together a solid outing in Philadelphia, DeRozan will be needed to lead his team to the promise land once again. There may be a time when he takes on the challenge himself to guard Bron Bron.