NBA on ESPN Betting Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors

lebron-james-cleveland-33Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors
Time: 6 PM (CT), ESPN
Spread: CLE -3
Total: 206

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The Cleveland Cavaliers obliterated the New York Knicks opening night 117-88 and will now travel to face the Toronto Raptors at 6 PM (Central) on ESPN. The Cavaliers are 3-point favorites in the game which features an over/under of 206 according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.

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Little has changed from last year’s 2016 champion roster in Cleveland. The Cavs start the same five, and by all accounts it is a well-rounded unit absolutely in contention again. In the win over New York Wed., LeBron James scored 19 points on an efficient 9 of 14 night while grabbing 14 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving scored 29 points on 12 of 22 shooting, hitting 4 of 7 from downtown.

The Cavs shot 47.9 percent as a team and got 38 points from its bench. Kevin Love was productive with 23 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and three steals in just 25 minutes. It really was just a tune up for the Cavs, but Toronto should present a bigger problem tonight.

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The Raptors are no strangers to playing Cleveland, as its Conference Finals opponent, where the Cavs trumped 4 games to 2. Toronto finished No. 5 in the NBA in offensive rating last season and No. 11 in defensive rating, while going 56-26 with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Legitimately, the team is solid at all five positions, with few glaring weaknesses. The biggest one people cite is the lackluster play in the playoffs of the Raps backcourt, but those things can always change with one big playoff performance. There are a lot of reasons to like this team.

The Raptors really begin their case for contention with the play of floor general Kyle Lowry. The 6’1” point guard from Villanova averaged 21.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game while playing 37 minutes in 77 games (all starts) last season. It was a career year and also his second career All-Star appearance after starting in 2015. Lowry shot just 3 of 13 in the opening night 109-91 win over the Detroit Pistons, though. Jonas Valanciunas came through with a huge game going 10 of 15 from the field and 12 of 14 from the line for 32 points and 11 rebounds.

DeMar DeRozan also went 17 of 27 from the field to finish with 40 points, four rebounds and an assist in just under 30 minutes of play. Toronto shot 47.7 percent from the floor but hit just 3 of 18 from three-point range. The Raptors got to the line to knock down 24 of 29 and out rebounded the Pistons by 11.

Though Lowry struggled, Valanciunas’ boost in production as well as DeRozan’s big night basically still made for a Raps’ blowout over a pretty good Detroit Pistons team. The separation between Toronto and the rest of the East may, in fact, be more profound than realized in preseason expectations, and this is a team that could easily repeat its win total from last season. The only real big loss was Bismack Biyombo, but in many senses in talents were a redundancy, and Valanciunas is fine for a big-minutes center.

The Raptors will miss Biyombo’s defense and energy off the bench, but Jakob Poeltl promises to be a good big in time, though the Raptors posted an 87 offensive rating in his 13 minutes of play opening night. It was offset by the fact DeRozan was so efficient, and this is still a rotation that features a quietly effective Patrick Patterson.

Patterson struggled opening night, but will not go 1 of 5 ordinarily and is capable of hitting the mid-range jumper to provide spacing in the second unit. Toronto is just a well-constructed team that should be there as the Eastern Conference playoffs unwind.

Can they knock off the Cavs? This will serve as our first glimpse into that matter, and if Lowry is up to the task of checking an aggressive Kyrie Irving, this game could easily swing to the home team. Toronto is a tough defensive team and held opponents to just 98.2 points per game last season (ranking No. 3 in the NBA), and if there is any pure wing-defender to put on LeBron James, it may be DeMarre Carroll (Jae Crowder and Kawhi Leonard both say ‘hi’).

The Raptors are a team constructed well to compete with Cleveland, though the Cavs clearly have an edge if only due to the fact that LBJ offers so many ways to dominate a game.

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