Game Preview: Raptors @ Cavaliers
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The Raptors head to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers in the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Cavaliers handed the Raptors their first loss of the season when they came to Toronto on October 28 and notched a close 94-91 victory thanks to a late three-pointer from Kyrie Irving.
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: TSN1, TSN4/ SN590
DeRozan earns POTW honours
Toronto’s meeting with the Cavaliers will feature the only two players to have taken home Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards so far this season. LeBron James was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week the first two weeks of the season and the NBA announced on Monday that DeMar DeRozan was named Player of the Week for games played November 7-13 where he averaged 34.7 points per game to lead the Raptors to a 3-0 record. DeRozan is the league’s leading scorer, averaging 34 points per game. Even more impressive is his 53 percent field goal percentage.
For much of the season, DeRozan and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey have talked about how the game is slowing down for him. The eight-year veteran elaborated after the team’s practice session on Monday, specifically how his comfort level has increased during end-of-game situations this year.
“It’s like being in your house in the dark, right,” he said. “If you turn the lights off, you still know where you’ve got to go. You know where the dining table, the chairs, you know where’s what. You know where the stairs are, all of that. I think at this point that’s what it feels like to me, late in the game. I’m just used to it. I’m comfortable with it. If I run into or step on a toy or something, I know I didn’t put it there.”
There have been lots of Kobe Bryant comparisons for DeRozan’s hot start and difficult shot-making. Norman Powell even calls him “Little Kobe.” DeRozan himself, though, has a different player he thinks about when asked about comparisons to his game.
“Alex English,” DeRozan said. “He was slow. He was one of the best at it. An old-school guy. He was never rushed.”
A Finals-themed back-to-back
Every team in the NBA plays the same amount of games, home and away. There are breaks in the schedule and there are rough stretches. The next 10 days for the Raptors will be one of those rough stretches starting with a back-to-back that begins in Cleveland against the Cavaliers and finishes in Toronto against the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s fun,” DeMar DeRozan said. “When you see games like that on your schedule you kind of mark those dates. You get up for games like that.”
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey thinks it will be a good test for his team, but he wasn’t willing to go as far as DeRozan in calling it fun.
“The computer that spit out this schedule, I want to find it and break it, break the keys on it,” Casey joked. “It’s the schedule, it is what it is and it’s a good challenge for us. Two of the top teams in the league that we’ve got back-to-back. It’s a good test for us.”
Although a pair of games in November doesn’t make or break the 7-2 start Toronto is on, DeRozan is excited to see how things go against two of the top teams in the league.
“We can learn a great deal from it,” DeRozan said. “We’re definitely going to get tested, playing against two teams that were in the NBA Finals. We already played Cleveland, we get another chance to really play them again. Golden State is going to be a new test for us too.”
After the back-to-back, the team heads west on a five-game road trip over eight days, before returning home to finish out the month.
Norman Powell learning from DeRozan, enjoying the show
All of DeMar DeRozan’s teammates have been enjoying his start to the season. It’s been a bit different for Norman Powell, though. In practice, it’s Powell who is tasked with the unenviable challenge of guarding DeRozan. Of course, where most players would be frustrated, Powell is eager to face the challenge head on and see what he can learn and apply to his own game.
After Toronto’s victory against the New York Knicks on Saturday, DeRozan joked that Powell gets a good defensive workout every day when has to guard him every day in practice. He was joking, but his words were the truth where the sophomore guard is concerned.
“He knows where his spots are, he knows where his shots are coming from,” Powell said. “He knows as long as he gets to his spots, it’s like a workout for him. It’s routine. I’m asking him, picking his brain, how is he reading the defence, how he’s seeing these gaps so when I’m in these similar situations I can see it the way he sees it, the way the game slows down. It’s all about learning and improving and I’m learning from one of the best scorers in the league, the top scorer in the league right now. I’m just trying to increase my game, increase my IQ on the offensive end as well.”
DeRozan has said that he sees a lot of similarities between himself and Powell, particularly their work ethic. Powell looks at DeRozan and sees his own mentality.
“It’s fun competing with him,” Powell said. “Just trying to prove to people that they’re wrong. Me and him have a similar mindset. Not caring about the money, not caring about anything other than proving people wrong, getting wins and trying to be the best.”