The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors will open their 2022-2023 campaign against each other tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST. Toronto will be hosting the new-look Cavaliers, and in a game where both teams project to compete for a playoff spot, this bout could have future tie-breaker implications.
Both teams for the majority are fully healthy going in. Toronto holds Otto Porter Jr. and Chris Boucher to questionable going in due to hamstring injuries, while Cleveland will be going in at full strength.
Keys To A Cleveland Victory
One of the easier ways for the Cavaliers to win this game is to out-rebound Toronto. Although the Raptors have multiple skilled rebounders, the size advantage is in Cleveland’s favor. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen manning the frontcourt gives them a size advantage over the majority of teams in the league. Both “bigs” will need to impose their will on the glass, not only against the Raptors, but all season long. Those two can each snag a combined 20 rebounds on any given night, and with others crashing the glass, there’s a feasible opportunity they get 10 or more rebounds than the Raptors.
Toronto likes to get to the rim, so Mobley and Allen will also need to conserve their energy for defense. Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam are great slashers and finishers, so Cleveland needs to rely on prime paint protection to slow them down. They’ll also need a focus on perimeter defense to prevent the likes of Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby from slashing upon the perimeter.
Offensively, they need to make the most of their transition opportunities. This is a game where the Cavaliers have to attempt to run Toronto off the floor. Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell are two of the best transition players in the game, so they’ll need to crash the boards even harder themselves to get out quick. Mobley and Allen will have a big responsibility in terms of dishing out efficient outlet passes to the two star guards as well in order to beat Toronto up the floor for easy looks.
Finally, they’ll need a balanced pick and roll attack. Toronto has built one of the tougher defenses in the league, so Garland and Mitchell will need others to help them find openings. Allowing Mobley and Allen to set strong, effective screens will be key to help the two weasel their way into the lane and make plays.
Keys To A Toronto Victory
The Cavaliers should be expected to prioritize the pick and roll game, so the Raptors should prioritize getting over and under screens successfully in turn. Toronto has a group of smart, versatile defenders. It shouldn’t be a problem attempting to neutralize this; however, it should be highlighted in the defensive scheme against this group.
Toronto should make Barnes play a point guard role in this matchup, with VanVleet used as more of a combo guard. Have the likes of Siakam and Anunoby set frequent off-ball screens for VanVleet to make backdoor cuts into the mid-range area, where he can then let off catch and shoot jumpers. In a weird way, Cleveland’s kryptonite may be teams spamming an off-ball mid-range attack. As odd as it sounds, with Allen used as the rim-protector and Mobley as the roamer, they’ll struggle to guard the mid-range. If Barnes sticks to the perimeter as a playmaker with the likes of VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. coming off screens to find efficient mid-range pull-ups, the “bigs” will struggle to get there in time to contest. Unusual game plan? For sure. Could it work? Most definitely.
With the mid-range being prioritized, this means Toronto will have to look for efficient threes. If they can spam the mid-range while taking good threes that go in at a high clip, the game is nearly over. A proper balance of a mid-range and three-point attack could open Toronto’s offense up in this game a ton, and against a top defensive frontcourt, this is essentially needed.
The Spread via FanDuel-
Moneyline: CLE: (+110) | TOR: (-130)
Spread: CLE: +2 (-110) | TOR: -2 (-110)
Total: 216 –Over: (-110) | Under: (-110)
The Cavaliers have one of the most talented young up-and-coming teams in the association this season, and could be one of basketball’s true contenders by the end of it. However, this isn’t the game they show it. Toronto has an easy way of neutralizing them on both ends, and they should win a relatively close battle.
Score- Raptors 110, Cavaliers 100