Game Preview: Raptors vs Cavs
Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0) @ Toronto Raptors (0-0)
When: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 7:30 P.M. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
Leading into tonight:
Injury Report: The Raptors have listed Delon Wright as questionable with a left adductor strain. The Cavaliers injury report is still to be decided.
Down to business: After more than five months, the Toronto Raptors will take the court for a (non-preseason) NBA game on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena. With nearly a month of training camp, scrimmages and five preseason games completed, when the ball goes up against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the 2018-19 NBA season officially begins in Toronto. This will be the 24th season for the Raptors, who finished with a 4-1 record during the preseason. It will also be the ninth time in the previous 10 seasons that the team has opened the season on their home floor. Toronto is 5-0 in season openers over the last five seasons (2013-17).
Fresh Faces: Though the Raptors will open the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers, both teams look markedly different than last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup. Tomorrow will be the regular season debut for Kawhi Leonard after being traded to Toronto, along with Danny Green, from San Antonio in July. It will also kick off Nick Nurse’s first season as head coach of the Raptors. For the Cavaliers, this will the beginning of a new chapter following LeBron James’ exit for Los Angeles after signing with the Lakers in the offseason. This will be the third time in franchise history that the Raptors have started the season against the Cavs, winning 104-96 in 2011 and 101-91 in 2009.
Expectations abound: After the team’s third consecutive 50-win season last year and a franchise-record 59 victories that gave Toronto the top seed in the Eastern Conference, there’s plenty of buzz about what this year’s Raptors squad will do. For head coach Nick Nurse, outside expectations are always going to be present. “You’ve got to embrace that stuff,” Nurse said. “I embrace it, [and I] certainly like it this way [with high expectations, rather] than the alternative." Though there will be speculation and predictions about how the team will fare this season, Nurse's focus is on ensuring the team starts the regular season playing the right way. Since becoming head coach, he has talked about wanting his team to play aggressively on both ends of the floor. After Tuesday's practice, he shared that the team has spent 85 percent of the previous 10 days keying in on defence. "I think your practice structure, your preparation, all those things feed into that sense of we’re ready to play and we’re ready to fight," he said.
Ready to go: While everyone on the Raptors roster is anxious to get the season underway, no one has had a longer wait than Kawhi Leonard. Before the trade to Toronto, Leonard was rehabbing in San Antonio after being limited to just nine games played last season. Despite playing with a new team, coaching staff and NBA system for the first time in his career, Leonard led the Raptors in the preseason, averaging 13.3 points per contest. Perhaps most important, he looked more comfortable with each outing. “I didn't play for a whole year, so you just need to play basketball, get in a rhythm,” he said. “Understanding what your schedule is and what you have ahead of you, basketball starts to come easy. It's just about finding a rhythm and getting games under my belt." Leonard credited his teammates with being very welcoming and helping him to adjust. “For me, I'm just taking it one day at a time, but I did feel good on the floor, he said. “I felt comfortable, happy that I was feeling healthy on the floor. Shots are going to fall once I get games under my belt, and get a rhythm going and figure out what you're doing on both ends of the floor.”
Blank slate: After last season was known as a culture reset for the Raptors, head coach Nick Nurse was asked how he would characterize this season. Taking a minute to think about it, he discussed the things he wants to see from his team this year. “I just think there’s a little bit more of a blank paper here because our team has changed,” Nurse said. “I think our team is more versatile and I hope that plays itself out on the floor. I want to see lots of groups play well. I want to see great chemistry. I want to see extra effort given, pulling for your teammates. Those are the kinds of things we’re shooting for and we’re going for because that’s what we need.”