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Toronto Raptors Visit Cleveland For A Cavaliers Rematch

On Friday, the red hot Cavaliers visited the Raptors in Toronto on a 6-game winning streak that started the day after they fired general manager Chris Grant and ran smack into the third best team in the Eastern Conference.  Their recently improved defense proved to be no match for the Raptors and their run ended in a 98-91 loss.  The Cavaliers don’t have to wait long to test themselves against Toronto again as the Raptors arrive in Cleveland on Tuesday for the rematch.

There should have been some suspicions that the Cavaliers may not have been full value for their recent success.  The last 4 contests were against the Kings, Pistons, 76ers and Magic.  The Raptors simply overpowered the Cavaliers in the second half on Friday, holding them to just 34 percent shooting from the field, while the Raptors got hot, hitting on 54.5 percent of their attempts for the 59-47 advantage.  Raptors sophomore wing Terrence Ross giving Kyrie Irving fits all game as he held the All-Star to just 3-16 shooting from the field.

The Cavaliers losing streak continued on Sunday with a loss at home to the fifth place Wizards 96-83.  However, one trend has continued in the Cavaliers favor, they have now held their opponents under 100 points for 7 games in a row and that is a streak more in keeping with a Mike Brown coached team.

The Cavaliers problems in their 2 losses have come at the other end of the court.  Over the past 2 games, new center Spencer Hawes has averaged 12.5 points and 11 rebounds, Luol Deng 19 points and 9 boards and Kyrie Irving 16 points and 7 assists, but combined, they have shot 27-81 or 33.3 percent from the field.  Cleveland isn’t winning many games with offense like that.

During the losses, Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles have been out with injuries, but there is still no timetable for any of them to return.  The Cavaliers will have to figure out how to score without them again on Tuesday.

Toronto has won 2 in a row and 5 of their past 6 games, but they’ve had to work for their wins, so while confidence is high, it is unlikely the Raptors will take the Cavaliers lightly.  Toronto is being pushed from behind by the Bulls who sit just 1.5 games back in fourth spot and the Nets who trail the Atlantic Division leading Raptors by only 4 games.  All three teams have identical 6-4 records over the past 10 games.  Cleveland also sports a 6-4 record, but they sit 5-games out of a playoff spot and will need help if they hope to overtake both Detroit and Atlanta to move up to eighth spot in the Conference.

Raptors starting power forward Amir Johnson injured his ankle in Sunday’s win over the Magic, but no one should be surprised if this warrior laces up the sneakers on Tuesday.  Johnson has a reputation of playing with pain.  However, Toronto has depth at power forward this season, so even if Johnson sits, the Raptors production is unlikely to change with Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough, Steve Novak and Chuck Hayes soaking up any extra minutes.

Toronto is going for win number 32 on the season and with a win, the team will have recorded its third winning month in a row for the first time since 2007 and the last time the Raptors had 32 wins before the end of February was back in 2008 (32-25, 02/29/2008).


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.


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