Viewers' Guide: Eastern Conference Finals rematch on NBA TV
Kevin Cottrell Jr., Special to NBA.com
Raptors vs. Cavaliers (7 ET, NBA TV)
The Toronto Raptors travel to Cleveland to face the defending champion Cavaliers to tip off NBA TV’s Fan Night doubleheader. The top two teams in the East met in October with the Cavs prevailing 94-91. The Raptors will look to even the season series before returning home to complete a back-to-back with Finals participants, facing the revamped Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
Look up the term “Most Valuable Player”, and you may find a picture of LeBron James. Three weeks into the season and DeMar DeRozan has been just as synonymous with the term. DeRozan currently leads the league in scoring at 34.0 points per game and became the first player to score at least 30 points in eight of his first nine games of a season since Michael Jordan in 1986-87. While most scorers utilize the 3-point line, DeRozan has attempted a total of 14 threes this season. DeRozan does his damage on mid-range shots and at the free-throw line. He’s currently one of six players to average 10-plus free throw attempts.
While DeRozan has grabbed the headlines his backcourt mate Kyle Lowry is more than a footnote. This duo has shared time on the All-Star team, won Gold with the USA Men’s National Team and looks to continue their winning ways throughout the season. Toronto is currently 5-0 when the two combine to score 50 or more points. It’s clear this Raptors team goes as their dynamic duo goes. Look for them to be aggressive early and often as they face their East rivals.
Third Times The Charm
In season three of the Cavs’ Big 3, the play of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love has made Cleveland virtually unstoppable. For the first time in three seasons, Irving (23.9 points 4.2 assists) is leading the team in scoring while James (22.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 9.1 assists) is averaging a near triple-double. However, Kevin Love’s presence may be the most impactful. Love (20.6 points, 10.0 rebounds) joins Pelicans’ star Anthony Davis as the only two players currently averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. If the Cavs trio can keep things afloat, it will be the first time in Cavaliers history three players averaged 20-plus points for an entire season (per Elias).
The next step in the process to build a title team is to play just as good on the road as one does at home. Thus far this season Toronto has excelled at both. The Raptors look to add to their 3-0 road record Tuesday when they visit Quicken Loans Arena. But it won’t be easy, as they’ve dropped six of their last eight games at the Q (including postseason play). Scoring has been their Achilles heel, as the Cavs have held them to an average of 95.1 points in their last eight visits.
Let It Fly!
Cleveland is scoring at an unbelievable rate and everyone seems to be contributing. The Cavs enter this matchup as the 3rd best scoring team at 109.4 points per game. While the usual contributors have scored consistently, the Cavs have also gotten a big lift from Channing Frye. The 33-year-old sharpshooter is averaging 11.6 points in 18.6 minutes while shooting 48.8 percent from 3-point range. Frye, who made six 3-pointers in a win over the Hornets Sunday, has helped Cleveland become the first team in NBA history to sink at least 10 threes in each of its first nine games of a season.
With an 8-1 record to open the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have tied their best start after nine games in team history, matching a feat they accomplished just a season ago. This blueprint led to an NBA title, so the guys in wine and gold appear to be on the right track to accomplish their ultimate goal. With a victory over the Raptors, the Cavs would match their best start through 10 games (9-1) set in the 1976-77 season.