Tonight looks to be a historic night at the Q when the Cavaliers take on the struggling Raptors. The Cavaliers will look for their 9th straight win and 17th out of their last 18 games. They will be trying to win their 8th consecutive game over the Raptors at the Q. Zydrunas Ilgauskas will need 4 rebounds to pass Brad Daugherty as the team’s all time rebound leader. LeBron James needs just 1 steal to pass Mark Price as the team’s all time leader in steals. It’s really something to think about. For the longest time, Mark Price and Brad Daugherty have been the icons of this franchise’s “golden era”, and in one night two of their franchise records might fall to the two titans of the modern golden age of Cavalier basketball. It’s an exciting night, and we will be watching to see if the Cavaliers can stay focused on just winning this game and not getting too caught up in the festivities of the fallen records.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Jose Calderon (12.8 ppg, 9.6 apg, 0.8 spg, 18.42 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (10.3 ppg, 2.4 apg, .471 3P%, 11.17 PER)
-F Andrea Bargnani (11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 13.47 PER)
-F Chris Bosh (25.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 24.31 PER)
-C Jermaine O’Neal (12.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 14.51 PER)
Key Injuries: Kris Humphries (Day-to-Day), Nathan Jawai (Out)
-G Mo Williams (15.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 15.73 PER)
-G Delonte West (11.4 ppg, 3.1 apg, .435 3P%, 14.53 PER)
-F LeBron James (26.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.5 apg, 32.64 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (2.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 14.43 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (15.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 24.59 PER)
Key Injuries: Eric Snow (Out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (97.1 ppg, 38.4 rpg, .451 FG%, .842 FT%, 23.1 apg, 102.4 PER, Rank-20)
-Def (102.1 ppg, 43.1 rpg, .470 FG%, 106.9 PER, Rank-24)
-Off (103.5 ppg, 42.8 rpg, .483 FG%, .774 FT%, 20.9 apg, 111.8 PER, Rank-1)
-Def (90.2 ppg, 37.2 rpg, .415 FG%, 96.6 PER, Rank-2)
The Cavaliers are having a season unlike any we’ve ever seen before in Cleveland. Last season, the Cavaliers didn’t get their 17th win until January 6th, 34 games into the season, when they finally pulled even to 17-17 on the season. This year they are a month ahead of the pace. They got win number 17 on December 6th, 20 games into the season. The Cavaliers are first in offensive efficiency and 2nd in defensive efficiency. They’re 4th in points per game and 1st in points against per game. They’re 2nd in FG% and 1st in opponents FG%. Simply put, the Cavaliers are winning games in every phase, and doing so in convincing fashion.
For the Raptors, this is a season at a tipping point. When they made the trade for Jermaine O’Neal in the offseason, it was with designs on challenging at least for 2nd in the Atlantic Division, but certainly to contend for the Eastern Conference crown. Right now, though, at 8-11, the Raptors find themselves dead last in the Atlantic and having already fired their coach. They need to get their season kick started, and a huge road win against a red hot Cavaliers team on a historic night in the Q could be precisely what the Raptors need.
The Raptors offense hasn’t exactly been lighting the league up, but their biggest problem is defense and rebounding. The Raptors are now starting three pseudo-centers in Bargnani, Bosh, and O’Neal. It will be interesting to see how the matchups will work in this game. LeBron doesn’t often defend players who are bigger than he is, but he will to start this game. I’d imagine we’ll see Z on O’Neal, Ben on Bosh, and LeBron on Bargnani to start, but I’d expect that to switch throughout this game. Jose Calderon is one of the absolute best PGs in the entire NBA. If Mo Williams is having trouble defending him, I’d keep an eye on Delonte West and see how long it takes before Mike Brown moves him over on Calderon and has Mo just shadow Anthony Parker around the perimeter.
When the Cavaliers have the ball, this game should be about execution. Yes, the Raptors are using a much larger lineup than the Cavaliers, but the Cleveland’s lineup should be much quicker on offense than the Raptors are defensively. The Cavaliers must use their quickness to their advantage by moving with the ball to draw defenders and open up passing lanes against this long, tall Raptors defense. The Raptors have not been playing very good defense, having given up 110+ points in 3 of their last 4 games, and 98 points in the other. They’re not rebounding the ball very well, either, having gone under 40 rebounds in 4 straight games and 6 of their last 7.
If the Cavaliers just limit turnovers, they should be ok in this game. They can use their rebounding advantage to control this game. If the Raptors can keep the Cavaliers off the boards, though, this game could be a lot more interesting. Even though the Raptors have a poor record and a new coach, this still isn’t a lineup to exactly dismiss. These are some good players, and on any given night they can give ANY team a tough game, which is why it will be important for the Cavaliers to focus.
Focus could be tough on a night of history. Even the Raptors are chasing some history as Chris Bosh looks to become the first Raptor to ever record 1,000 offensive rebounds (he currently has 999) and Jose Calderon looks to match or pass Chauncey Billups’ team record of 51 consecutive FTs made (he has 43 consecutive right now). But this night will be about LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Two of the greatest Cavaliers of all time both looking to add new entries in the Cavaliers team record book. Combining the records with a nice win could make for a very special evening. If the Raptors come out and get a win, however, it could put a real downward twist to the whole thing.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
8:00 PM EST