Coming off of their first game-winning shot in six years, DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors will try to keep the good times rolling on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. Playing host to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors look to win their second straight game against the Cavs, while also hoping to contain all-star sophomore guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving, recently named an Eastern Conference all-star reserve despite the Cavaliers having just 12 victories on the season, has been a handful. That would be putting it lightly. In Toronto’s victory on Cleveland’s home floor in December, Irving had 23 points and seven assists (as well as five turnovers). A solid game for most young guards. A pedestrian line for Irving.
While both the Cavaliers and Raptors have struggled this season, each team comes into Saturday’s matchup on a high. The Raptors completed a season sweep of the Orlando Magic on the second night of a back-to-back, thanks to a 14-point fourth quarter (on 7-for-8 shooting) from DeRozan, including that miraculous shot at the buzzer. The Cavaliers played on Friday night closing out a 113-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks thanks in large part to a 35-point explosion from Irving. Those 35 points came on 17 field goal attempts. He connected on 12 of them.
After doing a solid job on Irving in the first meeting, with the wave he is riding after a big week with the all-star announcement and being named Cleveland’s top professional athlete of 2012, it could be tougher to try to derail him this time around. While Kyle Lowry had a rough outing against the Magic, he is the Raptors’ best defender at the point guard position and could certainly be used against Irving. Lowry missed December’s match up while he recovered from a torn triceps muscle.
One thing that is different about this Cavaliers team is the loss of Anderson Varejao. Recording a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double in the last meeting, Varejao will miss the rest of the season after it was discovered that he had developed a blood clot in his lung after undergoing surgery on a torn leg muscle. Without Varejao, Toronto native Tristan Thompson has done a solid job filling in and will be looking to impress in his first trip home this season. Like Raptors big man Ed Davis, Thompson has made the most out of the opportunity extended to him as a result of an injury. Davis has been a revelation for Toronto this season, sliding into the starting spot after Andrea Bargnani injured his elbow in December.
Bargnani will miss his 22nd straight game on Saturday. While he is inching closer to returning, when that time comes it’s almost assuredly going to be from the bench.
In December, a beat up Raptors team in desperate need of a victory was able to grab one over a beat up Cavaliers team. On Saturday, the two teams remain in similar spaces with a few different faces playing key roles.