What a year for the Toronto Raptors, who maintain a five game lead in the Eastern Conference standings as the regular season winds down, and what should be a wild postseason rapidly approaches.
Tonight’s tilt provides both a chance for the Raptors to further distance themselves from the rest of the pack in an effort to clinch the conference and supplant the Boston Celtics as conference champions.Basketball lines for the next Raptors game should go to their favor, but at the end, that all depends on the players.
January 11 of this year was the last head-to-head match up between Toronto and Cleveland, and the Raptors decided to put on clinic, dismantling Lebron and company en route to a 34-point trouncing.
It was the only tilt between the two teams this season, and Cleveland will be looking to exact some sweet revenge at home tonight.
Having won their last two games and three of the last four, the Cavs hope to take advantage of the fact that Toronto will be playing their second game in as many days, away games at that. The Raptors lost to the Magic in Orlando last night.
With the Celtics not far behind -though Kyrie Irving is nursing a nagging ankle issue and Boston is not expecting Gordon Hayward to make a comeback this season after his devastatingly gruesome ankle fracture incurred at the beginning of the season- Toronto looks to clinch the number one spot in the East for good.
Raptors starting backcourt of Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry is one of the better guard tandems in the NBA, with Fred VanVleet continues to fill up the stat sheet and provide a spark off the bench with impressive consistently.
Kevin Love returning to the lineup from injury definitely gives the Cavs a much-needed boost, both from a scoring and rebounding perspective. His nearly double-digit rebound average per game (9.3) is among the top in the league, and will give them a much needed boost, assuming Love isn’t still hindered by the injury.
Even with Toronto’s quick turnaround and traveling fatigue taken into account, experts are predicting the Raptors to best the Cleveland Cavaliers on their home court.
Not only do the former have the offensive weapons to keep up with the Cavs, but they’re staunch defenders as well.
There is some melodrama that isn’t injury related playing out on the Cleveland sideline that may prove to serve as a distraction, as head coach, Tyronn Lue announced that he will be taking a leave of absence, citing health concerns and lack of sleep.
Lue and Lebron were recently seen in a mid-game shouting match, so there is a lot of tension within the organization right now.
Meanwhile, Raptors head coach, Dwane Casey, is a frontrunner for coach of the year in the NBA, has his team focused and primed for home court advantage in the playoffs.
Still, Lebron has shown before that he is more than capable of willing his team to victory, so this should be hard-fought game, with an atmosphere nothing short of electric.