Raptors vs. Cavaliers Preview: Trend Points to Value on Over/Under

Austin Wang breaks down the betting value in the NBA matchup on Sunday between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Raptors vs. Cavaliers Odds

Raptors Odds +4
Cavaliers Odds -4
Over/Under 210.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers face off at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Sunday night, and things haven’t gone well for either team of late.

The Raptors were trending upward and climbing up the Eastern Conference standings, but that came to a screeching halt right before the All-Star Break.  They’ve gone 3-6 since then and reached a new low with two outright losses against bottom-feeders in the Magic and Pistons.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, have lost six of their last seven games and slid down to the sixth seed in the East. Darius Garland has returned to the lineup after being absent for a few games dealing with a back injury.

Can Cleveland turn its misfortunes around against the injury-riddled Raptors?

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VanVleet’s Status Up in the Air

OG Anunoby has been out for six games with a fractured finger. He will be out of the lineup for Sunday’s game and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

In addition, Fred VanVleet has been out for four straight games and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup. He’s having a career year and was just selected to his first All-Star appearance, averaging 21.4 points per game.

VanVleet’s status will make a big impact on this game because the Raptors do not have much depth. Head coach Nick Nurse has consistently utilized a short seven to eight-man rotation and has over-utilized his starters. VanVleet and Pascal Siakam lead the league in minutes played per game, so it was no surprise fatigue and injuries eventually came haunting them.

Without Anunoby and potentially VanVleet, there is just not enough shooting and spacing on the floor. The offense has suffered tremendously.

Since the All-Star break, the Raptors are 24th in Offensive Rating (107.6) in the league and only averaging 106.3 points per game, per NBA Advanced Stats. If you exclude an outlier 133-point performance against the Nets, they are only scoring 101.0 points per game.

The totals in Raptors’ games have gone under in seven of their previous nine games. In addition to their struggling offense, they are also 22nd in Pace (98.7), so I expect that their scoring will remain low against a Cleveland defense that is ranked fourth-best in the league.

Cavs Facing Minimal Backcourt Depth

The Cavaliers almost pulled an upset and delivered the 76ers their first loss with Joel Embiid and James Harden both active. Garland was brilliant and put up 26 points and a career-high 19 assists in the loss.

Injured guard Caris LeVert is listed as doubtful for Sunday. If he’s unable to go, this will be the sixth consecutive game he has missed dealing with a foot sprain. In addition, it appears Rajon Rondo is not ready to return to the lineup either and is also doubtful to play. The Cavaliers are lacking depth in their backcourt and Brandon Goodwin will get an increase in playing time.

The Cavaliers’ defense has led to this overachieving season for the young team. Even after dealing with multiple injuries, including season-ending injuries to Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio, they’ve been able to rely on their defensive anchors in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. The new-age “Twin Towers” have led the Cavs to allow the least number of points to opponents (103.3) in the league.

The Cavaliers are 14-3-1 (82.4%) to the under as home favorites this season, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme the Dog. They hold their opponents to an average of 96.7 points per game in this scenario.

Raptors-Cavaliers Pick

I expect a slow, defensive matchup between these two teams. Both play at slow tempos, have above-average defenses and below-average offenses.

If VanVleet is confirmed out for the Raptors, I don’t anticipate their output will be very high without their leading scorer.

With both teams fighting for playoff seeding in the stacked Eastern Conference, this is a huge game with many implications. I foresee the defensive intensity will be high as both teams look to get an advantage with seeding and stop the bleeding from their respective struggles.

As such, I think this will be a low-scoring game and will take the under at 210.5.

Pick: Under 210.5 (down to 210)