Toronto Raptors (35-33) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (39-30)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Friday, March 21, 2008
7:30 PM EST
History will be made Friday night at the Q when the Cavaliers take on the Toronto Raptors. With just 5 points, LeBron James will overtake Brad Daugherty as the Cavaliers all-time leading scorer. I doubt his NASCAR schedule would allow, but it would be nice to see Daugherty at the game to offer his congrats to LeBron, mostly because he’s been a bit of a ghost around the organization since he retired. But I digress. The Cavaliers have won 8 straight at home. They have won 11 of 13 against the Raptors and 6 straight against them at the Q. The Raptors are 3.5 games behind the Cavaliers for the 4th spot in the East, and with just 13 games remaining, this one is obviously huge.
Projected Starting Lineups:
-G Jose Calderon (12.1 ppg, 8.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 21.34 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (12.7 ppg, 2.1 apg, .462 3-pt%, 15.05 PER)
-F Jamario Moon (8.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 14.60 PER)
-F Chris Bosh (22.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 24.85 PER)
-C Anfrea Bargnani (10.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.5 bpg, 10.83 PER)
Key Injuries: Jorge Garbajosa (Out), Primoz Brezec (Day-to-Day)
-G Delonte West (7.7 ppg, 3.6 apg, .340 3-pt%, 10.74 PER)
-G Sasha Pavlovic (7.8 ppg, 1.7 apg, .307 3-pt%, 7.55 PER)
-F LeBron James (30.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 7.4 apg, 30.28 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (5.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 11.95 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 18.45 PER)
Key Injuries: Daniel Gibson (Out), Eric Snow (Out)
Team Efficiency Stats
-Off (100.3 ppg, 40.3 rpg, .467 FG%, .811 FT%, 23.3 apg, Efficiency-107.8, Rank-9)
-Def (97.1 ppg, 41.6 rpg, .457 FG%, Efficiency-103.9, Rank-13)
-Off (97.2 ppg, 44.3 rpg, .440 FG%, .720 FT%, 19.9 apg, Efficiency-103.4, Rank-17)
-Def (97.4 ppg, 40.8 rpg, .456 FG%, Efficiency-103.9, Rank-12)
This is the 4th and final regular season meeting between these two teams. The Cavs have 2 of the first 3 matchups. This game will be a great test for the Cavaliers’ defense. In particular, it will be interesting to see how well Ben Wallace can handle Chris Bosh, especially since this will be the key matchup when these 2 teams meet in the first round of the playoffs. Ben’s biggest weakness defensively seems to be when opponents are able to lure him outside. With Bosh’s mid range shooting, he will certainly challenge Wallace to come outside and guard him. This should be a fun matchup to watch and I’m looking forward to it.
The Raptors are one of the best offensive teams in the NBA, and their defense is very solid as well. It’s actually a bit surprising that their record isn’t better when you look at their efficiency stats on both sides of the ball. Their biggest weakness at times can be rebounding. In the two Cavaliers victories over the Raptors this season the Cavs won the rebounding battle, but in their only loss to the Raptors, Toronto was able to get the upper hand on the boards. So keep an eye on which team is getting after rebounds more agressively, as it could be an indicator as to which team is setting themselves up to win this game.
Toronto likes to play a half court offense, which again could play into the Cavaliers’ hands, but don’t be fooled by the Raptors’ slow pace. They are a very, very good offensive team. They move the ball around extremely well and rack up a lot of assists, and they can shoot any team out of the building, as they are 6th in the NBA in FG%. Chris Bosh is obviously the focal point of their offense, but stopping them isn’t as simple as doubling and tripling him, because Bosh is an excellent passer as well, and the Raptors will swing the ball and get it to their long range shooters. Toronto is 1st in the NBA in 3-pt shooting at 41% from distance. This is precisely why it will be so important for Ben Wallace to be able to handle Chris Bosh on his own because the Cavaliers need to be able to extend their perimeter defenders on Toronto’s shooters.
For the Cavaliers, on offense, the game plan is simple….let LeBron attack. LeBron has been feasting on the Raptors all season. In the first 3 games, LeBron has averaged 37.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and 8.7 apg. The Cavs’ last game, against Detroit, was actually a pretty good model for how the Cavaliers should play offensively to give themselves the best chance to win. I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating….when the Cavaliers are reduced to a 3-point shooting team, they are going to struggle. Getting into shootouts just doesn’t suit this team very well. Delonte West needs to keep driving the lane to put the pressure on the defenders as he has been doing in the last few games. It makes life a lot easier for LeBron and Z. If the Cavaliers can get around 25 assists and beat Toronto on the boards, they should have a great chance to come away with a victory in this one. Either way, these are two fairly similar teams in many ways, and there’s no reason not to expect another great game Friday at the Q.
From The Outside Looking In