Game 58: Raptors at Cavs
Quicken Loans Arena
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM), WFUN (970 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio
WHAT HAPPENED: This is the first of five consecutive home games, as well as 12 of 15 at The Q. This is the point in the season they need to make a charge.
That's exactly what they are doing. They've won four of their last five games. They actually finished 7-5 in February, their first winning month since You Know Who left town.
There could be two more winning months in March and April, if they stay healthy. This team has definitely turned the corner.
Both the Raptors and Cavs have revamped their seasons after big trades with the Memphis Grizzlies. Toronto acquired forward Rudy Gay on Jan. 30. Since then, the Raptors are 7-5. That doesn't include the Jan. 30 game at Atlanta when Gay didn't play.
The Raptors are actually talking about playoffs (playoffs?) for the first time in years. They are five games behind No. 8 Milwaukee for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot at the beginning of the night.
The Cavs received center Marreese Speights and guard Wayne Ellington from Memphis on Jan. 22. Since then, they are 10-6, including their upset in Chicago on Tuesday.
All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving missed his second consecutive game with a hyperextended right knee. There's a chance he'll return for Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. One would think he'd want to face Chris Paul in the worst way.
They haven't missed a lot with veteran Shaun Livingston in the starting lineup at point guard. He has averaged 15 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the two starts. Obviously, he's a different player and doesn't score as easily and effortlessly as Irving, a 23.3-point scorer on the season.
The key to Toronto's recent success is its improved defense. In 11 games in February, they are holding teams to 92.6 points per game - fourth fewest in the NBA. They've held opponents under 100 points in eight of the last nine games.
One hurdle for the Cavs was the fact they are just 3-13 this season on the second night of a back-to-back. Make that 4-13.
NEWS FEED: Frank Zicarelli's story on the Raptors in the Toronto Sun.
LAST GAME: The Cavs defeated Chicago on Tuesday, 101-98.
SF Alonzo Gee (6-6, 219) vs. Rudy Gay (6-8, 230)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 227) vs. Amir Johnson (6-9, 237)
C Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250) vs. Jonas Valanciunas (7-0, 257)
G Dion Waiters (6-4, 221) vs. DeMar DeRozan (6-7, 217)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 191) vs. Kyle Lowry (6-0, 205)
Cavs – C Anderson Varejao, G Josh Selby
Raptors - F Linas Kleiza, F Mickael Pietrus
Tony Brothers, JT Orr, Leroy Richardson