In a match-up between two of the Eastern conference’s best teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers travel to Canada to face the Toronto Raptors. For Toronto this is a game to prove that they belong in the Eastern conference championship discussion, and for Cleveland it is an opportunity to make up for a frustrating overtime defeat in Houston at the weekend.
The Cavaliers experienced their first back-to-back losses last weekend, but they dominated the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night and they’ve got star point guard Kyrie Irving back in the lineup to bolster the scoring. Irving registered 18 points in a little over 25 minutes of action in his return to the lineup against the Celtics.
Cleveland have the opportunity to move into a tie for second place in the East and it should be expected that superstar LeBron James will want to prove a point in this contest. James was frustrated squandering a chance to put the game away against the Rockets on Sunday by missing two free throws late in the game. It appears that James has been selecting his spots to play at the highest level and a big game against a conference rival will surely be viewed as one of those spots.
The Cavaliers are starting a run of five games against opponents with records above .500. Shawn Marion is still currently sidelined and not expected to be back in the lineup until later this month.
The Raptors are hopeful to have point guard Kyle Lowry back in the lineup after he missed the last two games. Toronto snapped a five-game losing streak on Monday night by beating the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. The offensive rhythm of the team appears to have been disrupted – they didn’t top 100 points in any of those five defeats.
DeMar DeRozan exploded with 35 points against Philadelphia and the Raptors will be needing more of the same from their star guard. Lou Williams also chipped in with 21 points from the bench. Coach Dwane Casey will also be looking for a little more from his front court, in particular Amir Johnson and James Johnson.
Betting Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers (-5) at Toronto Raptors
James will want to make a statement in this game and there isn’t a lot on this Toronto roster that can stop him. More than that, Iman Shumpert and Irving will disrupt Toronto’s backcourt, Lowry will find it difficult to drive the lane with any rustiness likely to be heavily punished. Timofey Mozgov and Kevin Love have a huge advantage on the front court as well. This isn’t a matchup that looks at all good for Toronto in a playoff series, and while they have to be given some chance on their own court, a five-point line shouldn’t be enough to discourage you from betting on the Cavaliers here.
The Pick: Cleveland (-5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 29-24