NBA: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers Predictions, Preview, Picks

DeMar DeRozanThis is the final night of the NBA regular season. Several of the matchups have implications for playoff seeding, and one of those is today’s contest between the 50-31 Toronto Raptors and 51-30 Cleveland Cavaliers (8pm ET Wednesday).

Toronto is stuck as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, but Cleveland does have potential to move. The Cavaliers are currently the No. 2 seed in the conference and will stay there with the combination of them losing or the Boston Celtics defeating the Milwaukee Bucks tonight.

This game got a little less interesting when it was reported that the Cavaliers’ LeBron James would sit out. There could be other key players who also rest. However, the members of both teams who actually hit the court should play with strong effort to impress their coaches with the postseason soon beginning.

This contest won’t be easy to predict until we know more information, but we can still focus on several issues that will decide the outcome. We’ll also make picks and betting predictions based on what we know so far.

How Many Cavs Regulars Will Play?

The end of the NBA regular season is not one of the safer times to bet on sports games if you get your bets in early. Playoff teams often make late scratches or decide to play unusual rotations to keep their big-minute players fresh for the postseason. Today’s top question is basically: “who’s going to play?”

We know James is out. The Cavs are unsure about Kyrie Irving. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if none of James, Irving, Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson played for the Cavs. On the Raptors’ side, Dwane Casey said that he plans to play everyone.

Kyle Lowry did just return from his wrist injury a week ago, and it’s likely Casey wants to give his starters some rhythm with him heading into the playoffs.

Will the Raptors Continue to Outwork the Cavaliers On the Defensive End?

It’s clear that one of these teams is going into the playoffs playing more inspired basketball, especially defensively. Toronto has the league’s third-most efficient defense since the All-Star break (102.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and has gotten a boost from midseason acquisitions Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.

Cleveland has been lazy on the point-preventing end of the floor, ranking second-last since the All-Star break in defensive efficiency (111.1 points allowed per 100 possessions).

The quality of defensive personnel on these teams isn’t that different on paper. The main difference is effort. Will the LeBron-less Cavs play as poorly as they have as of late, and will the Raptors continue to get after it on defense?

Who Can Limit the Two-Headed Monster of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan?

The Cavs have gotten rid of DeAndre Liggins, a physical wing who played good defense. LeBron is also out, obviously. So Cleveland will rely on J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert for their above-average stopping abilities, assuming both play.

Toronto has one of the best scoring backcourts in the NBA, though. Smith and Shumpert are solid on defense, but they will have trouble if they are the main ones tasked with stopping Lowry and DeRozan.

We will have to see if Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue can devise a defensive scheme to limit Toronto’s two players when his team is defending. Or will he even care enough to do so?

Our Preview’s Toronto Raptors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Picks & Predictions Verdict

Toronto should be the clear favorite, considering what we know about both teams’ resting strategies. Cleveland will probably sit out more than just James. We already know Kyrie Irving is a distinct possibility.

The Cavs are a team so reliant on LeBron’s ball-dominant offensive excellence and defensive abilities that they usually falter pretty strongly without him. Missing other starters will make things even harder.

  • Because of possible resting all the United States’ friendly online sportsbooks are waiting before they open their betting lines. Toronto is in much better position to win this game, despite the fact that it seems that Cleveland would want it more. The Cavs clearly don’t care at all, though their players that do suit up should give solid effort. My pick is the Raptors to win by 9pts and that is almost certainly going to mean betting on them on the spread as I expect the bookies to favor them, but not by that much.
  • The over-under for this game is likely to be circa 207pts or thereabouts. The Raptors’ defense has been stifling lately and the Cavs won’t be at the top of their game offensively. Expect a low-ish scoring game. My prediction is to go under 204pts+. If the online betting sites’ over / under point is below 204pts then don’t wager.