Tha Sports Junkies 101

Raptors Keys To The Game Versus Cleveland

Raptors keys Keith Allison via Flickr

NBA

Raptors Keys To The Game

We are halfway through the NBA season. As we approach the All-Star break, the Eastern Conference favorites are holding their ground atop the standings. With these teams vying for the top spot, head-to-head wins and losses are important — especially if a tiebreak occurs at the end of the season. And that won’t be any different on Thursday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are currently in third place in the standings, travel to Air Canada Centre to take on the second-place Toronto Raptors. Toronto is trying to solidify themselves as a true contender in the East, and a win in this game will put the NBA on watch. So what are the Raptors keys to the game ahead of this marquee matchup? Let’s dive in.

Raptors Keys To The Game

The Raptors are currently 2.5 games ahead of the Cavaliers at the midway point of the season. So, here are Toronto’s keys to its first matchup of the season against Cleveland as they look to add to their 2.5-game lead in the standings.

Home Court Advantage: Toronto has used their home court advantage nicely thus far. They currently hold the best home record in the league at 14-2. Their lack of home games through 39 games will aid Toronto later on in the season, as they will have the comfort of having several extended home stands. However, in regards to this game, the fans need to bring the energy, which could help disrupt the chemistry that Cleveland is beginning to build with Isaiah Thomas returning.

Kyle Lowry Injury

 On Monday, Kyle Lowry suffered a lower back and tailbone injury in the Raptors overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets. The injury looked horrific, and he was carried off the floor.

Luckily for Lowry, the injury was determined to be a bruised tailbone and back spasms. He missed Tuesday’s loss to the Miami Heat, and he is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game against Cleveland. Without the Villanova alumnus, who is the team’s second-best player, the Raptors will have to rely on Delon Wright and Fred Van Fleet to carry the load at point guard. That is if Lowry is indeed unable to play.

Serge Ibaka’s Absence

In Tuesday’s 90-89 loss to Miami, Serge Ibaka and Heat forward James Johnson got into a scuffle in the third quarter, where punches were thrown. The skirmish started when both players were shoving each other before an inbounds play.

Due to this altercation, Ibaka and Johnson were both suspended one game by the league. For Toronto, that means Ibaka will not be in uniform for their game against Cleveland, one in which they are already expected to be without Lowry. So, look for Pascal Siakam to step in and take Ibaka’s place.

DeMar DeRozan

With their second and third best players out for the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan is going to have to score even more. DeRozan is currently 7th in the NBA in scoring at 25.3 points per game. However, without Ibaka and Lowry, he’s going to have to up that — and by a lot. Especially since they are playing a LeBron James run team. The former USC Trojan is going to have to run most of the offense to be able to score enough to keep up with the Cavs high-octane offense. We do know he’s capable, as he scored 52 points earlier this season.

Prediction

Without Lowry and Ibaka, I can’t see the Raptors having a chance of beating the Cavaliers. I see DeRozan scoring 30-plus, but ultimately, their home court advantage won’t be enough. I have Cleveland winning by double figures.

Photo by Keith Allison