The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors are preparing for another match-up tonight in Cleveland. For those that do not know, the Raptors are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference. With the regular season dwindling down, the Raptors will look to avenge their 132-129 defeat on March 21. In the high scoring affair, a 3-pointer from Fred VanVleet put the Raptors up 15 heading into the half. From the Raptors perspective, that was a game that got away. From a Cavs perspective, their fight and resiliency won them the game.
When DeMar Derozan was asked about the loss post game, he gave Cleveland the credit. “They’re still a hell of a team,” DeRozan said. “You can’t take nothing away from them. They’re still a top team in our conference and in this league. You can’t overlook them or under-look them no type of way, no matter what type of changes they made.”
If you have payed attention to the Cavaliers this NBA season, you know the amount of scrutiny they have endured. From the Kyrie Irving trade in the summer, to the failed chemistry of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade and on and on. The Raptors were under the radar to begin the season. As the Boston Celtics started to lose games, DeRozan and crew kept winning.
Prior to the All-Star break, many in NBA circles began to give the Eastern Conference title to the Raptors. In order for Toronto to achieve their goal of getting to an NBA Final, they will have to get past the Cavaliers. Tonight will be another opportunity for them to gain the necessary confidence heading into the playoffs.
What This Game Means For The Cavs
The last time the Cavs squared off with the Raptors, they were without five rotation players. This time around, they will be without George Hill (ankle) and Kyle Korver will return to the roster. While it still won’t be a complete roster, the Raptors will get their first look at Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. The Cavs have won eight of nine games and appear to be clicking when it matters most. The team knows the challenge that is the Toronto Raptors and want to continue their winning ways.
If the playoffs started today, the teams wouldn’t meet until the Conference Finals. Last season, when the teams met in the Conference Semifinals, the Cavs won 4-0. The Raptors believe they are a different team, and the Cavs have made their own changes. This heavyweight showdown is only a regular season game, but expect a playoff feeling tonight at the Q.