Tonight the Toronto Raptors (9-6) return to the Air Canada Centre after going 2-3 on a difficult five-game West Coast trip to host the number one team in the Eastern Conference the Cleveland Cavaliers (11-3). This will mark the first meeting between the two clubs since February of last season where the Cavs came out with a victory north of the border.
Tonight also marks the third annual Drake Night where the Raptors celebrate everything Drizzy, including a “Hotline Bling replica Activation center” where fans will be asked to recreate the 6ix Gods dance moves from the music video. This game will also mark the debut of the sleek new Toronto Raptors black and gold (OVO) alternative jersey. Every ticket holder in attendance will also receive a black and gold OVO X Raptors sweater and headband.
The Raptors are glad to be back home after completing their dreaded West Coast trip, despite winning the final two games. It is also noted that the Raptors have played the most away games in the league with a total of 11. On Sunday night, the Raptors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 91-80 after a first half beat down. DeMarre Carroll had a big game and was perfect from the field in the first half and finished with a stat line of 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting, five rebounds and four steals. Veteran Luis Scola also had a big night scoring 20 points, eight rebounds and one assist. The Raptors managed to survive the game even after the Clippers brought the game within six points at one point in the fourth quarter.
This week Cleveland will have a tough schedule playing three games in four nights. The Cavaliers last game came against the Orlando Magic Monday night at The Q, with a final score of 117-103 winning their third straight and staying perfect at home. Kevin Love had a big game scoring a season-high 34 points to go along with eight boards and four assists. Shooting guard J.R. Smith scored a season-high 26 points. Meanwhile, LeBron James had 15 points and 13 assists and joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in history to rank in the top 25 in career points and assists.
Although the Raptors are back north of the boarder, tonight’s game wont be an easy task especially considering the Cavs have LeBron James on their squad. The biggest key for Toronto in this game is to play excellent team defense for all four quarters. Carroll will have his hands full trying to contain LeBron James, but Kevin Love brings just as tough of a matchup as the Raptors don't have one particular guy who can stop him, meaning it will have to be a collective effort to get the job done.
The Raptors will also need to play consistent good basketball for all four quarters. The trend in recent games for the Raptors has been a tale of two half's, playing horrible in some quarters and then playing well usually in the third or fourth. That simply wont cut it against the cream of the crop of the East. If the Toronto Raptors want to prove to the league that they can hang with the big boys, they need to play hard the whole game because once Cleveland goes on a run it is very likely they’ll let them back in the game without putting up a fight. Fans are in for a good one tonight. Be sure you don't miss any of the action as the game can be viewed at 7:30 PM EST on TSN 1
Projected Starting Lineup for the Toronto Raptors:
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: DeMarre Carroll
PF: Luis Scola
C: Bismack Biyombo
Projected Starting Lineup for the Cleveland Cavaliers:
PG: Mo Williams
SG: J.R. Smith
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Love
C: Tristan Thompson
Injuries and absences:
Raptors: Bruno Caboclo (D-League), Delon Wright (D-League) and Jonas Valanciunas (hand) are all unavailable
Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving (knee), Timofey Mozgov (shoulder) and Iman Shumpert (wrist) are all unavailable. Mo Williams (leg) is questionable.