Game 6 Preview: Raptors vs. Cavaliers

Holly MacKenzie -

Series: Cavs Lead 3-2

After a blowout loss in Game 5 on Cleveland’s home floor, the Raptors will have an opportunity on Friday to force another Game 7 and extend their series against the Cavaliers. Wednesday’s loss followed two stellar performances at the Air Canada Centre, and was Toronto’s worst outing of the postseason. Veteran Luis Scola summed the night up perfectly when he told the Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur, “A lot of things happened, all of them bad things.” Shifting to Game 6, the Raptors hope to leave Wednesday night behind in Cleveland and focus on the task at hand.

Tip-off: 8:30 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN, ESPN, TSN1050

Ford Fanzone open: 6:30 P.M. ET

Pregame Show: 7:00 P.M. ET on NBATV Canada


New Game, New Opportunity

Through 19 postseason games, Toronto has been up, down, and everything in between. Momentum has helped propel the Raptors to victories, and it has also deserted them after the final buzzer has sounded. Basically, the slate has been wiped clean after each contest, and what happened in the previous 48 minutes has had little bearing on what’s to come in the next.

Following Wednesday’s loss, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey acknowledged the final score, “They kicked out butts,” but was quick to remind everyone that the series wasn’t over and his team would have another chance to tie things up on their home floor in Game 6.

“I believe that every single game in the Playoffs, round 1 to Eastern Conference Finals, every single game is a different game,” Kyle Lowry said. “I mean, we've proven it, literally. You watch this, we've proven every game is a different game, so you can't -- you learn and you make adjustments and you go on and prepare for the next day, next game. Every game is completely different.”


Valanciunas Added To The Mix

Jonas Valanciunas made his return to the court in Game 5 after missing 18 days with an ankle sprain sustained during Toronto’s second-round series against the Miami Heat. There weren’t many positives to take from Wednesday’s game, but Valanciunas returning, playing 18 minutes, and making all four of his field goals was a welcomed sight for Toronto.

Having the option of feeding the ball inside to Valanciunas helps when Cleveland is forcing Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to give up the ball. Valanciunas had been playing the best basketball of his career prior to injury and although the layoff certainly will impact his stamina, having him on the floor provides Toronto with another needed offensive presence.

“If we can get him the ball, we get him the ball,” Lowry said. “He can score, get him to post-up. But we've got to understand what he can do for us, and he's just definitely that guy coming back from injury. Some minutes are going to be taken from someone else, and shots are going to be taken from other people, but if it helps us win games, that's all that matters.”

Limiting Turnovers & Extra Possessions

The Cavaliers helped force Toronto into 19 turnovers in Game 5. Even worse than the turnovers was that they scored 30 points off of those miscues. Giving a team that is already fired up and rolling on its home floor that many extra opportunities is a recipe for disaster and the Raptors know it.

“They're drastically bad when you've got LeBron coming at you,” Kyle Lowry said of giving up live ball turnovers to the Cavaliers.

Cleveland also dominated on the glass on Wednesday, holding a 48-27 rebounding edge on the Raptors, who shot just 39 percent. Against a team as talented as the Cavs, hustle plays become even more important when shots aren’t falling. Preventing runs and keeping things close is crucial when trying to find a rhythm.

“We did a little bit better job in the second half [with turnovers], but a lot of those were live ball, and that's what they thrive off of,” Casey said. “They thrive off of you getting a live ball turnover and then off to the races going down to the other end. That's why a lot of our defensive roles start with our offence, taking care of the ball, making solid passes in those situations.”

Getting the right start

In each of Toronto’s victories at the Air Canada Centre, the Raptors have set the tone from the jump. In Game 5, Cleveland was the aggressor. They dominated the offensive glass to start the game, were quicker to the ball, and forced Toronto into turnover after turnover. Casey repeatedly mentioned the importance of playing with force when he spoke with media following the loss. With the season on the line in Friday’s game, Toronto wants to get back to being the team to set the tone rather than the one trying to match it.

“A great team like [Cleveland] loses two games in a row, the only way you're supposed to respond is to come out with that type of energy, and they did,” DeRozan said. “We didn't play like a team that lost two in a row. We kind of eased up a little, and we can't have that lapse. Now understanding how we got beat, coming back on our home floor, we've got to use that as motivation.”

There has been a lot of talk about the importance of home court in this series, for good reason. Neither team has won on the opponent’s floor. It could be easy to look ahead to a potential Game 7 taking place in Cleveland, but Lowry and the rest of the Raptors are refusing to focus on anything beyond Friday’s Game 6 game plan.

“We've got to take care of home,” Lowry said. “That's all we can do. I mean, [you] can't worry about the road [right now]. Can't worry about the road. We might not get a chance to go back on the road if we don't play the right way tomorrow.”

Toronto has survived two elimination games already in this postseason. After attempting just eight shots in Game 5, DeRozan intends to be more aggressive on Friday, just as he was in the team’s previous two Game 7 victories because he isn’t ready to begin his offseason.

“We're going to do whatever it takes, anything possible, anything physically we can do on that court to make sure that that doesn't happen,” DeRozan said. “It's a challenge that I always look forward to. It's one of the moments that it's hard to duplicate unless you're in that moment to be able to do what needs to be done.”


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