Game Preview: Raptors vs. Cavaliers

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

Toronto’s six-game homestand continues on Mondaywith the Cleveland Cavaliers in town for the second time this season. The Cavaliers come to Toronto having dropped their previous three games. This will be the third meeting between the two teams, with the first two going down to the wire.

Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN2 / TSN1050

TALKING POINTS

Previous meetings

Toronto has lost both of its previous meetings with the Cavs by a combined total of seven points. In the first meeting, it was Kyrie Irving to hit a go-ahead three-pointer. In the second, the Raptors led by seven with under five minutes remaining, but Cleveland finished the game on a furious 18-5 run to collect a 121-117 victory.

In the first game, DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 32 points and seven rebounds while Kyle Lowry added 17 points and Jonas Valanciunas scored 10 points to go with 17 rebounds. In addition to the three-pointer that sealed it for Cleveland, Irving had 26 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead the Cavs, with LeBron James adding 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Lowry and DeRozan each had big games for Toronto in the second loss on Cleveland’s home floor, with Lowry scoring 28 points to go with nine assists and DeRozan adding 26 points. James had a monster game scoring 28 points to go with nine rebounds and 14 assists as Irving added 24 points.

Raptors looking for seventh straight win, Cavs looking to snap a three-game skid

Cleveland comes to Toronto hungry for a win. Having lost its last three games, this is the first three-game losing streak for the Cavaliers since Tyronn Lue took over as head coach midway through last season. After losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers, the Cavs fell in Chicago to the Bulls, prompting LeBron James to say the defending champions need to get out of the honeymoon stage and play the game the right way.

Toronto enters the game having won six straight, including the first four games of a season-high six-game homestand. The average margin of victory in those four games is 29.8 points and Saturday’s 128-84 victory against the Atlanta Hawks marked the team’s largest margin of victory in franchise history.

The two teams enter Monday’s game atop the Eastern Conference. Despite the ease of their previous four home victories, the Raptors know to expect a much different game on Monday against the Cavaliers.

“We played them twice already,” DeMar DeRozan said. “It came down to the wire [both times] and it’s fun when you go up against teams like that so we’re looking forward to Monday.”

Bench coming up big

Toronto’s bench had a slow start to the season. With DeMar DeRozan on a scoring tear and the DeRozan/Kyle Lowry backcourt doing its usual All-Star thing, bench contributions were limited. Things have changed during Toronto’s current six-game winning streak. In Saturday’s victory against the Hawks, the Raptors had eight players reach double figures, including four reserves. Cory Joseph and Patrick Patterson especially have found their rhythm, while Terrence Ross has been solid since opening night and the Raptors are benefiting tremendously.

“The ball is finding the right person,” Dwane Casey said. “When you move the ball like that, it has energy inside it and I think it helps us on the other end when the ball is moving like that.”

Toronto tied a franchise record in Saturday’s win, hitting 10+ three-pointers in six consecutive games. The last time this happened was during the 2004-05 season. After missing open looks earlier in the season, Toronto seems to both be getting better looks, while also sinking some of the shots that rattled out in November.

“We were missing a lot of easy shots early on but I think I said it before, I told the guys as well, all that was going to come and it was going to fall,” DeRozan said. “Everybody worked on it every single day. It’s just repetition, catching a rhythm and playing together and I think that’s where we’re at right now.”