Archive for the ‘Cleveland Cavaliers’ Category

Let the good times roll! The Raptors have won three straight games in rather convincing fashion while using an undermanned rotation. The group that has played these last four games in no way resembles the team that played the first 22 games. This group plays like a team – they move the ball quickly on offence, they pass up good shots for great shots, they hustle back on defence, and they communicate and trust each other to make the proper rotations. It’s very cliched, but everyone who stepped on the floor tonight for Toronto was playing “team” basketball.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

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No, I don't know why Calderon's head is cut off in this Getty image

The Raptors showed a renewed spirit and defensive intensity at home last week, but can they carry it over to Cleveland?

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The races at the top of the conferences and battles for playoff positioning haven’t left us with much to get excited about on the final day of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 NBA regular season.

But for fans in New Orleans, Sacramento, Cleveland, New Jersey Brooklyn, Golden State and Toronto, what happens on the final day of the regular season could shape the future of each franchise.

Heading into Thursday’s slate of 13 games, the Bobcats and their potentially worst record of all time have locked up the NBA’s 30th seed, and a 25 per cent chance of winning the Draft Anthony Davis lottery. The Wizards, meanwhile, are locked into the 29th spot, and a 19.9 per cent chance of winning the Unibrow sweepstakes.

Where it gets interesting is that the Hornets, Kings, Cavaliers, Raptors and Nets are separated by just one total game between third-worst and seventh-worst in the league standings. In terms of lottery percentages, that’s the difference between a 15.6 per cent chance and a 4.3 per cent chance.

The Raps, Nets and Warriors are separated by just one game between sixth-worst and eighth-worst, which would be the difference between a 6.3 per cent chance of winning the lottery and a 2.8 per cent chance.

From a Toronto perspective, the Raptors and Nets head into their season finale matchup tied at 22-43. Whichever team wins that game will either finish seventh-worst or in a tie with the Warriors for seventh and eighth-worst. The losing team, on the other hand, would still have an outside chance at a four-way tie for the league’s third-worst record.

If you’re wondering, in the event of a tie in the “lottery standings,” the tied teams would share the total number of combinations that the positions take up. So, for example, if the third-worst team gets 156 combinations, the fourth-worst gets 119 combinations, the fifth-worst gets 88 and the sixth-worst gets 63 combinations, that’s 426 total combos to be shared among four teams (106.5 each).

However, according to the NBA Draft Lottery’s wiki page, “Should the average number not be an integer, a coin flip is then used to determine which team or teams receive the extra combination(s). The result of the coin flip is also used to determine who receives the earlier pick in the event that neither of the tied teams wins one of the first three picks via the lottery.

Based on how confusing some of this can become, the fact that certain slottings may come down to a coin flip, and the fact that we don’t really know which combination will come up on lottery night, I’m not going to come out and start talking about how this is a “must-lose” game for the Raptors (or Nets).

Example, imagine the Raptors win tonight, finish with the seventh-worst record, but then end up with some lottery luck and snag a top-three pick. Well anything outside of a top-three pick means New Jersey’s pick goes to Portland (because of the Gerald Wallace deadline day trade), so the Nets would then be left to think about how a win in game no. 82 actually would have saved their pick.

The point being that while I obviously want the Raptors to finish with the best possible chance at winning the lottery, or at the very least moving up, I’m just as worried about being careful what I wish for when at the end of the day, we’re dealing with a lottery.

Here’s how the schedule looks for the teams Raptors fans should be keeping an eye on tonight:

Nets @ Raptors (22 wins each) 7 p.m.

Hornets: 21 wins, @ Houston 8 p.m.

Kings: 21 wins, hosting the Lakers 10:30 p.m.

Cavs: 21 wins, @ Chicago 8:00 p.m.

Warriors: 23 wins, hosting the Spurs 10:30 p.m.

And here’s the breakdown of the lottery percentages for the positions the Raptors can finish in:

3rd-worst: 156 combinations, 15.6% chance

4th-worst: 119 combinations, 11.9% chance

5th-worst: 88 combinations, 8.8% chance

6th-worst: 63 combinations, 6.3% chance

7th-worst: 43 combinations, 4.3% chance

8th-worst: 28 combinations, 2.8% chance

Best case scenario, if the Raptors lose to the Nets and get wins from New Orleans, Sacramento and Cleveland, they’ll end up with a 10.65 % chance to win the lottery.

Worst case scenario, if the Raps win and the Warriors lose to the Spurs, they’ll end up with a 3.55 % chance.

I heard History Television may televise these games tonight instead of running an episode of Greatest Tank Battles.

Game No. 56: Cavaliers 84, Raptors 80

The Raptors had a legit chance to take a four game winning streak into Oklahoma City this Sunday, but instead, they used their favourable matchup with the Cavaliers to start what could be a lengthy losing streak (check their upcoming schedule).

The Raps controlled this snooze fest for three quarters, but put together one of their worst fourth quarters of the season to throw what looked like a surefire win away. If you’re a TankNation subscriber, I guess this loss makes up for the unexpected win in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- I know now that we’re more than three months and 56 games into the season, a lot of people are getting sick of all the “tank” talk. But come on, did you see the starting lineups for this game? Let me throw some names at you: Donald Sloan, Manny Harris, Alan Anderson, Ben Uzoh. For various reasons, those four guys all started on Friday night. With all due respect to those players, this game could have passed for an episode of Greatest Tank Battles.

2- Aside from the low talent level in the ball game, the game itself was an absolute dud. There was no energy, no flow, an inconsistent effort, and the two teams combined to shoot an atrocious 56-of-146 from the field. Credit the 16,565 in attendance for manufacturing their own excitement the few times the Raptors gave them even an inkling to cheer for, but in all honesty, they would have been forgiven if they up and left midway through. It’s not like they were going to get their money’s worth from the game itself anyway. Byron Scott’s ejection in the second quarter was by far the most exciting couple of minutes all night.

3- I mentioned above that Alan Anderson started at small forward again, marking the second straight start for the 10-day man (Anderson and Uzoh were each given a second 10-day contract on Friday). James Johnson, on the other hand, was a DNP-Coach’s Decision for the second straight game. We know an “internal” matter caused Johnson’s benching on Wednesday, but we’ve all been led to believe the issue between James and Dwane Casey is a minor one, so it was definitely surprising to see Johnson riding the pine for 48 minutes again. Whether or not the small forward sees the floor on Sunday in OKC is now the definite storyline of that game from a Raptors’ perspective.

4- Another Raptor who seems to be in Dwane Casey’s dog house is Ed Davis. I’ve generally agreed with how Casey has allocated minutes this season, but I’m a bit puzzled by the treatment of Davis. Don’t get me wrong, Ed’s been a disappointment in his sophomore season, but in the few instances he has put a good string of games together, he doesn’t really seem to get rewarded with extra minutes. Davis pulled down an impressive 14 rebounds in just 25 minutes on Wednesday in Philly, and was one of the few players on the court bringing a consistent effort against the Cavs. Ed had six points, seven rebounds and a block in 18 minutes on Friday, and sparked the team in the third quarter, but when Aaron Gray fouled out in the fourth quarter, Casey elected to go with Amir Johnson, who was the vastly inferior player in this game. I’m at the point where I think Casey is trying to send a message. Does anyone else see it?

5- Andrea Bargnani’s final statline of 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals seems decent at first glance, but when you consider that Bargnani had 13 points in the first quarter and hit his first six shots, then his line of 19 points on 8-of-22 shooting shows you the massive letdown that his overall game was on Friday.

6- An otherwise outstanding defensive performance was spoiled by a horrible fourth quarter for the Raptors. Toronto held Cleveland to just 51 points on 29 per cent shooting through three quarters (a combination of solid Raptors’ defence and half-assed Cavaliers’ offence), but allowed the Cavs to shoot 9-of-14 for 33 fourth quarter points to erase a 12-point deficit heading into the final frame. The tide began to turn when the Raptors left Antawn Jamison wide open behind the arc on three straight possessions. Jamison would go on to score 16 of his 25 points in the fourth.

Bonus: At 20-36, the Raptors still sit seventh from the bottom in the standings, just a half-game ahead of the fourth worst record, but also only two games behind the ninth worst record. That’s the difference right now between heading into the lottery with the guarantee of getting a top-seven pick or the uncertainty of being able to fall all the way down to 12.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 38 Min, 28 Pts, 10-16 FG, 1-2 3PT, 7-8 FT, 4 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 4 TO

Cavaliers Player of the Game: Antawn Jamison – 39 Min, 25 Pts, 8-16 FG, 3-5 3PT, 6-8 FT, 8 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk, 1 TO

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Ben Uzoh, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray
Cleveland: Donald Sloan, Anthony Parker, Alonzo Gee, Antawn Jamison, Tristan Thompson

Injury report

Toronto: Jose Calderon and Gary Forbes will both sit this out. Jerryd Bayless is out for the season.

Cleveland: Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson are all expected to miss this game.

The Raptors’ current three-game win streak is their longest of the season. If they win tonight — and they probably will beat a short-handed (seriously tanking) Cavs squad — this will be their first four-game win streak since November 2010. As we all know, these wins don’t mean anything in terms of a potential playoff spot, but the Raptors’ draft lottery odds keep getting worse with every win.

Golden State currently has a tw0-game advantage over Toronto in the standings, while Detroit is a game-and-a-half ahead. If the Raptors manage to pass both those teams over their final 11 games, that will probably mean they’ll draft around ninth overall — you know, the spot where they took DeMar DeRozan in 2009.

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If all these Raptors wins are starting to bum you out, here’s a classic Mr. Show sketch that should turn that frown upside down.