Feb 15, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Team Shaq guard Dion Waiters (3) of the Cleveland Cavaliers dunks against Team Chuck during the second half of the rising stars challenge during the 2013 NBA All-Star weekend at the Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers (21-41) vs Toronto Raptors (24-39): 3 keys to victory

The Toronto Raptors limp back to the Air Canada Centre following a deeply disappointing road trip in which two of their three losses occurred in overtime. Kobe Bryant was the lead assassin in Los Angeles, and the Raps will face another star tonight in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving. The Raps couldn’t handle the young, aggressive and talented Cavs without Irving in Cleveland recently; can the home team regroup, hold the MVP-in-waiting in check, and not fritter away a healthy lead this go-round?

Mar 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) and small forward Alonzo Gee (33) celebrate at the end of the first quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavs aren’t as deep as the Raps, who can put away a win to even the season series if  they:

  1. Play team defense against Irving. He can shoot and make from anywhere, and take the ball to the hoop with authority. The best we can do is make him uncomfortable on the perimeter, and hope our bigs step outside the circle to take some charges when he drives.  We can’t get mesmerized by this guy, either. Irving has some extremely capable teammates in Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, who will happily grab passes from the generous Kyrie, and pot some baskets.
  2. Get some production from the bench. I said above that the Raps are deeper, but you certainly couldn’t prove that from looking at the last tilt, in which the Cavs’ second unit outscored ours 39-8. I want to believe that’s just an anomaly. Alan Anderson, John Lucas et al can’t have bad games at both ends of the floor again – can they?
  3. Don’t turn the ball over. One of the many reasons I’m deeply impressed with Cleveland is their low rate of turnovers per game, which is extremely rare in a team so young. Since mid-January these guys lead the NBA in turnovers per game with a mere 12.3, and force enough opposition turnovers to rank 6th this season. This game will not reward a lot of steal attempts by the Raps. Best to force the Cavs into a slow, half-court-set game. Rudy Gay, I’m lookin’ at you! Pass the ball tonight! If he continues his destructive habit of dribbling into trouble, or driving into double teams, I hope coach Dwane Casey parks him on the bench.
The entire Raps team played well (except Rudy) against the Lakers, and should have been rewarded. I think Toronto will have another solid game and send their fans home happy with a 109-103 victory.
[Note: I'll be examining the Raps' dismal overtime record shortly.]

Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving Toronto Raptors

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