Toronto Raptors (19-30) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (37-9)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
7:00 PM EST
Tonight the Cavaliers try to make it 23 for 23 at the Q as they take on the struggling Toronto Raptors. This game had the potential to be especially interesting with all the Chris Bosh rumors yesterday, but since that time, both Bosh and Raptor’s GM Bryan Colangelo have called the story a complete fallacy. None the less, the Raptors limp into Cleveland really playing poor basketball. For their part, the Cavaliers have been playing poor basketball as well, but have at least still been finding ways to win. Playing a team that is 11 games under .500 at the Q, combined with tomorrow’s game in New York, should be just the kind of warm-up games the Cavs need as they get ready for Sunday’s showdown with the Lakers. However, as I said yesterday, the Raptors have some very, very good players on their team. Just because they’ve been playing poorly doesn’t mean they aren’t still more than capable of coming out and jumping on the Cavaliers.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Jose Calderon (13.3 ppg, 8.6 apg, 0.9 spg, 20.01 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (10.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, .395 3P%, 12.16 PER)
-F Jamario Moon (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 14.57 PER)
-F Chris Bosh (22.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 22.40 PER)
-C Andrea Bargnani (13.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 13.88 PER)
Key Reserves: Jermaine O’Neal, Jason Kapono, Joey Graham, Will Solomon, Roko Ukic
Injuries: Kris Humphries (out)
-G Mo Williams (17.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 0.8 spg, 17.22 PER)
-G Sasha Pavlovic (4.9 ppg, 1.2 apg, .450 3P%, 10.99 PER)
-F LeBron James (27.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 apg, 31.52 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (3.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 12.87 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (14.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 20.66 PER)
Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, JJ Hickson
Injuries: Delonte West (out), Tarence Kinsey (out), Eric Snow (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (97.5 ppg, 38.9 rpg, .461 FG%, .825 FT%, 21.7 apg, Eff-104.6, Rank-14)
-Def (100.0 ppg, 41.8 rpg, .457 FG%, Eff-106.5, Rank-22)
-Off (100.9 ppg, 41.8 rpg, .476 FG%, .751 FT%, 20.4 apg, Eff-110.2, Rank-3)
-Def (90.7 ppg, 38.3 rpg, .425 FG%, Eff-98.4, Rank-2)
- Toronto 94 at Cleveland 114 (12/9/08) 
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be making his 3rd appearance since returning from injury. So far he’s looked a little rusty at times, but overall not too bad consider how much time he missed. It’s good to have him back for this game, though, because the Raptors have some serious size they can throw at the Cavaliers. Between Bosh, Bargnani, and O’Neal, the Raptors are one of those teams that can use lineups so big that the Cavaliers’ cannot use their smaller lineup that they like going to in pinch. Which means all the depth the Cavaliers have in their own front court will be beneficial in this matchup.
What amazes me about this Raptors team, though, is how a team with so much size can be such a lousy rebounding team. That is one area the Cavaliers can get a big advantage in this game. For all his size, Bargnani does not really play like a traditional center. This can cause an adjustment issue for the Cavaliers’ defense as their bigs are not used to chasing guys outside. Bargnani is on pace to set a new career high in 3 point attempts. It will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers choose to defend this.
Speaking of the Cavaliers’ defense, I have noticed a trend this year that has really been bothering me. The Cavaliers seem to be fouling an awful lot on opponents’ FG attempts. Despite the fact the Cavaliers are 19th in the NBA in fouls committed per game, they are dead last in the NBA in Foul%. The Cavaliers commit fouls on 14% of their opponents’ FG attempts, which is highest in the NBA. As a result, the Cavaliers have given up the 4th highest number of “And One” attempts in the NBA. This means one of two things is happening….either the perimeter defenders are not doing a good enough job stopping dribble penetration at the point of attack, or else the help rotations from the big men are too slow. Or maybe both are happening. It probably also means the Cavs are committing a lot of dumb, lazy, and weak fouls on drives, leading to the excess of “And One” attempts. Remember, you don’t get an And One attempt unless you make the basket, so obviously the Cavaliers are not doing a good enough job at all of making life difficult in the lane for opponents.
This game features two teams who shoot threes very well, but the Raptors actually don’t shoot as many 3’s as you might think. Only 20% of their FG attempts are from three, which is in the middle of the pack, compared to Cleveland’s 26%, which is 4th highest in the NBA. The Raptors are a 2pt jump shooting team. 52% of their shots are 2pt jumpers, which is highest in the NBA. They make 42.1% of their 2pt jump shots. This where Chris Bosh is just deadly. Despite the fact the Cavaliers held Bosh to just 9 points in their last match-up, Bosh has played some excellent games throughout the years against Cleveland. Prior to that last game, in his last 10 games against the Cavaliers, he was averaging 24.9 ppg, with a high of 41. Ben Wallace did a supreme job defending Bosh last game, and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat those results.
All in all, though, the Raptors are a team that does not drive to the hoop all that often, which should help limit the Cavs fouls against. The big key in this game will be how well Wallace and Hickson can defend Bosh. Also, Delonte West isn’t here to slow down Calderon this time, so Mo Williams must continue to play improved defense. Lest we forget LeBron’s defense, as well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see LeBron defend everyone from Calderon to Bosh at some point in this game. He took some turns defending Bosh last game, and I would expect he will want to rise to the challenge again this game.
On offense for the Cavaliers, it would be nice to see Mo Williams be very aggressive in this game. If he can beat Calderon outside, he can do wonders to open up the game inside for the Cavaliers. If I had two complaints about Mo’s game, they would be 1) that his assist numbers are so low this year, and 2) that he doesn’t take advantage of his lethal FT shooting ability enough. Mo is more than capable enough of beating guys off the dribble. He should be able to get into the lane more often to create more assist opportunities. And at other times, he should be able to drive to the basket and draw more shooting fouls. He currently ranks 29th amongst all NBA point guards in assists per game, and despite being 3rd overall in the NBA in FT%, he is just 21st among PGs in FT attempts per game at just 3 per game. In his last few games, Mo has been getting a little better in these areas, though. In his last 5 games he’s averaging 3.8 FT attempts per game and 5.5 assists per game, up from the 3.0 and 4.2, respectively, he is averaging for the season so far. If he can keep those trends up in this game, the Cavaliers should be well on their way to victory. It’s worth noting that in Cavs wins, Mo averages 3.14 FTA and 4.4 assists, but in losses those numbers drop to 2.44 FTA and 3.0 assists. His point output varies less than one point in wins vs losses (17.4 to 16.8), which goes to show how important those 2 aspects (FTA and Assists) of Mo’s game really are to Cleveland’s success.
The Cavaliers have been close to unbeatable at home. With the way they defend in the Q, they usually just need a solid game from Mo, 25-35 from LeBron, and one player from the bench to have a standout game. When that happens, it’s going to be hard for most teams to come out of the Q with a win. Last time it was Wally with 16 off the bench to spark the Cavs win. We’ll see who can be the spark guy in this game for the Cavaliers.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
7:30 PM EST
Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks