We-The-North also means we-the-not-on-ESPN, so it’s been taking a while for the boys in the south to start noticing just how hot the Toronto Raptors have started out this season. In the NBA, superstar players get most of the respect and teams that win without the marquee name players are only grudgingly acknowledged.
However, after dismantling the Wizards 103-84 to open a seven game home stand, beating the Western Conference leading Grizzlies 96-92 and then destroying a 7-5 Bucks team that came into Toronto on a three game winning streak 124-83 to close out their stay in Toronto at 6-1, the 10-2 NBA Eastern Conference leading Raptors are getting hard to ignore.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) November 22, 2014
The Cavaliers Game Day Preview sums up the Raptors season clearly and precisely. Teams are expecting a rough ride from the Raptors.
The Raptors have the best record in the East and are coming off a 6-1 homestand. Part of that is their prowess late in games. On one hand, hey lead the league in double-digit comeback wins; on the other, they’re 7-0 when leading after three quarters. Over the last four games, they’ve restricted foes to an NBA-best 18.8 points in the fourth quarter, holding each below 40 percent from the floor. Like a baseball team going against a hot closer, it might be best to get to the Raptors early.
The Raptors have owned the fourth quarter this season, outscoring their opponents by a league leading 4.7 points over the final frame. What tends to get overlooked is Toronto led the NBA in fourth quarter scoring differential last year as well. For some reason, when the chips are down, the Raptors have been able to come back or put away teams in the fourth quarter ever since that game-changing trade last December.
The LeBron James led Cavaliers haven’t been enjoying early season success. As expected, throwing a All-Star team together with parts that haven’t played together before with a rookie head coach is proving tough to manage. The Cavaliers have the talent to be the class of the East, but like the HEAT of four years ago, it isn’t going to happen easily.
Raptors roll into Cleveland as early class of the East. http://t.co/f2aZ6ksKwi
— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) November 22, 2014
Ohio Fox Sports puts the two teams playing tonight in perspective:
The Toronto Raptors unexpectedly own the best record in the Eastern Conference, while LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ surprise start is more disappointing than anything else. So far, the Raptors look more than capable of taking the Atlantic again, already leading the second-place Nets by five games.
James has struggled at times in his first season back in Cleveland, but he’s been especially subpar over the last three games. He had 31.0 points per game while connecting on 61.3 percent of his field goals to lead Miami to a four-game season series sweep of Toronto in 2013-14.
Therein lays the Cavaliers hope on Saturday night. James has been a Raptors killer over his career and Cleveland isn’t beating any team unless their superstar has a huge night. It will be the Raptors depth and fourth quarter killer instinct against the All-Star laden Cavaliers that still haven’t figured out how to play together.
Bob Finnan of The News Herald, Cleveland Cavaliers Blog sums things up nicely:
It’s hard to say when is the best time to face the Raptors, who have the best record in the Eastern Conference. Only Memphis (11-2) has a better mark in the entire league. The Raptors have a lot going for them right now: a strong backcourt of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and backup Lou Williams. They also have bigs, including center Jonas Valanciunas. Their roster is deep and talented. Let’s not forget that they are well-coached with Dwane Casey.
Now that’s a lot of respect for a Toronto Raptors team.
“We have a deep team,” Greivis Vasquez explained. “We have guys that can do it on any given night. It’s a team effort. We are doing a good job at being focused and just waiting for an opportunity and we are taking advantage of that as a unit, as a team.”