The daily preview it to the rim with NBA tips for crunch time in the East as Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors both chase a return to winning ways.
11:30 (AEDT), Mon 7th Mar @ Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland
History: Played 112: Cavaliers 64 V Raptors 48
Last meeting: December 26, 2021: Cavaliers 144 d Raptors 99 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse
Final Thoughts: The battle for top-six spots in the Eastern Conference – and in turn avoiding the play-in tournament scramble – heats up as the sixth-placed Cleveland Cavaliers host the seventh-placed Toronto Raptors.
The 36-27 Cavaliers are searching for a turnaround after losing six of their last seven games. But they will be encouraged by a 125-119 loss away to the hotshot 76ers on Saturday (AEDT). The Cavs shot out to a 13-point lead at the end of the first quarter and still led early in the fourth term before being overrun. Darius Garland (26 pts, 19 ast) was outstanding in a beaten team, while Jarrett Allen (20 pts, 7 reb) and Isaac Okoro (22 pts) impressed and Cedi Osman had 20 points off the bench.
Runaway Rookie of the Year favourite Evan Mobley has hit a flat patch, managing just 16 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists across the Cavs’ past two games.
The 34-29 Raptors are also in something of a mini-slump, winning only three of their last nine. After starting the week with consecutive wins over the Nets in Brooklyn (133-97) and Toronto (109-108), they have dropped back-to-back home games to East strugglers Detroit (108-106) and Orlando (103-97).
Pascal Siakam (34 pts, 14 reb) was immense against a Magic side that was on an eight-match losing streak, but the absence of Fred VanVleet (knee) and OG Anunoby (finger) was telling. VanVleet is without a timeline to return, while Anunoby will definitely not face the Cavaliers.
Cavs control season series
After winning just two of their previous 10 against the Raptors, the Cavaliers have won both encounters between the teams this season. Garland (21 pts, 8 ast) helped the Cavs rally to a 102-101 win in Toronto in November, while a second-string Raptors line-up was hammered 144-99 in Cleveland on Boxing Day with Garland (22 pts, 8 ast) again prominent.
The Cavaliers are 19-11 at home (17-12-1 ATS, third-best in the NBA), winning eight of their last 10 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. The Raptors are 17-14 on the road (18-12-1 ATS, seventh-best in the NBA), winning seven of their last 10 away from Toronto.
Both teams are in a bit of a hole, but the Cavs will take more out of their last outing and the Raptors’ injuries will be difficult to overcome. Cleveland’s fourth-ranked defence will focus its attention on Siakam, while in-form duo Garland and Allen should get them over the line at home.
Best Bet: Handicap – Cavaliers -4 @ $1.90