The Toronto Raptors will shoot for a ninth consecutive win on Thursday when they travel to Cleveland to take on a Cavaliers team that's won only twice in its previous 10 outings.
The last time these two teams met, the Toronto Raptors were without Pascal Siakam, yet, still wound up winning 117-97. This time around, Spicy P will be in Toronto's lineup.
Coming off a convincing 130-114 home win over the Atlanta Hawks, the Toronto Raptors now hit the road for a pair of games, beginning with Thursday's contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers. A mismatch on paper, this game should go Toronto's way, though, injuries are starting to pile up for the defending champs. Here we go again.
Potentially shorthanded, again, Toronto will have to rely on its depth until the injured get healthy. Luckily for them, Thursday's opponent resides near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, so all should be fine for the visitors.
Someone who will be on the court Thursday is Kyle Lowry, now Toronto's all-time franchise leader in assists. Lowry passed Jose Calderon in Toronto's win over the Hawks and now sits atop the franchise's assist leaderboard (3,772).
What to make of OGs struggles on offence
OG Anunoby has struggled mightily on offence the past five games, averaging five points, three rebounds, and less than two assists per game. That simply isn't going to cut it, even if Anunoby continues dominating on the defensive side of the ball. Shooting 37 percent from the field, including 25 percent from beyond the arc, Toronto's starting small forward has to be more involved in the team's offence.
A matchup with Cleveland could be good for the third-year pro, with Anunoby averaging 12 points and eight rebounds across two previous meetings with the Cavaliers this season.
On offence, Anunoby would benefit from a more inside-out approach. In the last three games, half of his shots (9 of 18) have been threes. Making a conscious effort to get inside, to the rim, with more frequency will certainly help Anunoby regain confidence in his outside shot. Post-ups, drives, and the occasional duck/dive-in (watch Terence Davis) will go a long way in making the basket look bigger from the perimeter.
What does everybody else think about OG's offensive struggles? Is it time for Nick Nurse to consider moving him to the bench? I say "no", but it's certainly a topic worth debating.
Player to watch: Norman Powell (also keep an eye on Matt Thomas)
Norman Powell, after torching the league over seven games, has failed to reach double digits in back-to-back contests, scoring a combined 13 points in two games.
Powell was hurt the last time Toronto played Cleveland, but in the two teams matchup before the previous one, Powell dropped 26 on the Cavaliers, going 11 for 15 from the field (4-6 3pt). Perhaps a meeting with the league's 29th ranked defence (115.2 Def Rtg) is what Powell needs to get back on track?
Finally, keep tabs on Matt Thomas. He's been largely irrelevant since returning from injury but might see an increased role Thursday night, given Toronto is playing the first game of a back-to-back.
Thomas is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc this season, and Cleveland ranks 27th in the NBA in opponent three-point percentage. If Nurse elects to give him run, Thomas could be a big factor in this matchup.
Enjoy the game!