Game Preview: Raptors vs Cavs
Cleveland Cavaliers (8-24) @ Toronto Raptors (24-9)
When: Friday, December 21st, 7 P.M. ET
Where: Scotiabank Arena
Leading into tonight’s game:
Injury Report: For the Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas is out with a dislocated left thumb. Kyle Lowry is questionable with a left thigh contusion and Serge Ibaka is questionable with a swollen right knee. Lowry has missed the previous three games, while Ibaka sat for Toronto’s game against the Pacers on Wednesday. For the Cavaliers, Matthew Dellavedova is questionable with left knee soreness, John Henson is out following left wrist surgery, Kevin Love is out following left foot surgery, Tristan Thompson is out with a left foot sprain and JR Smith is not with the team.
200 strong: Friday’s game will mark the 200th consecutive sellout (including playoffs) at Scotiabank Arena dating back to Nov. 11, 2014. This is the longest streak in franchise history. The Raptors currently rank third in NBA average attendance, averaging 19,824 through 16 home games this season. The matchup against the Cavaliers will be the first game in a back-to-back that will see the Raptors head to Philadelphia immediately after the game to prepare to take on the 76ers on Saturday at 7:30 P.M. ET. After Friday's game, the team's next game at Scotiabank Arena will be on Dec. 30 to take on the Chicago Bulls.
Recent history: Friday will be the third meeting between the Raptors and Cavaliers this season. The Raptors defeated the Cavaliers 106-95 in Cleveland on Dec.1, despite Kyle Lowry missing the game with a sore back. Kawhi Leonard led the way in his absence, scoring a game-high 34 points, while Fred VanVleet started in place of Lowry and added 15 points. Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 19 rebounds in the loss. Toronto also hosted the Cavaliers in the season opener at Scotiabank Arena, earning a 116-104 victory. A win on Friday would give the Raptors a season-series victory against Cleveland for the first time since 2015-16.
Bet on yourself: Fred VanVleet started his third consecutive game on Wednesday, with Kyle Lowry out with a thigh contusion. Though VanVleet was 0-for-6 from beyond the arc after three quarters against Indiana, his doubt in himself never wavered down the stretch. The Raptors point guard connected on three three-pointers in the final quarter, including the go-ahead bucket with 25 seconds remaining to help the Raptors complete a comeback from a 17-point deficit. “His late-game shot-making ability is really special,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said after the game.
Back to business: Pascal Siakam wasted little time getting back to work after returning from a one-game absence because of back stiffness. Siakam played 35 minutes against the Pacers, finishing with 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including 5-for-6 from the free-throw line. He added seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot as well. Norman Powell also made his return to the court after missing 20 games with a left shoulder subluxation. It wasn't entirely smooth sailing for Powell, who took an errant elbow to the face and left the game briefly with a lip laceration, but he was able to return and logged 15 minutes in the victory.
Kawhi coming through: Kawhi Leonard had another huge all-around effort to help lead the Raptors to victory, this time scoring 28 points to go with 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals in 39 minutes of playing time. Leonard is averaging 29.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists, while shooting 51 percent from the floor in eight games played in the month of December.