NBA Preview: Cavaliers at Raptors

Cavaliers at Raptors

The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off one of their worst performances just in time to face one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers will try to solve their defensive woes in time to stop DeMar DeRozan and company when they visit the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

Cleveland dropped six of its last nine games and was embarrassed 127-99 at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, and Isaiah Thomas simplified the team’s issues. “We’ve just got to play harder,” Thomas told ESPN.com. “We’ve got to play harder on both ends, we’ve got to push the pace offensively, we’ve got to pressure up defensively and take teams out of what they want to do. Teams are doing whatever they want to us at that end of the floor. I think if we do that then that will be half the battle. We’ll fix things on offense, but defensively we’ve just got to play harder, be more physical, take away what teams want to do.” The Raptors had a five-game overall winning streak and a 12-game home surge come to an end with a 90-89 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday. “We always focus on the last few possessions, but the stuff was building up, the lack of ball movement, spacing, cutting, playing with force, we didn’t do it,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, Sportsnet One (Toronto)

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ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (26-14):¬†Cleveland star LeBron James is playing at his usual MVP form this season but suffered through one of the worst games of his career on Monday, when he scored 10 points — his lowest total since 2007 — and registered a plus-minus of minus-39 — the worst mark of his career. James, who insisted “I don’t give a damn about no damn plus-minus,” was coming off a performance at Orlando on Saturday in which he collected 33 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and six steals. Power forward Kevin Love, who scored 27 points in that win over the Magic, managed just three points on 1-of-7 shooting at Minnesota.

ABOUT THE RAPTORS (28-11):¬†Toronto was playing without point guard Kyle Lowry on Tuesday after he suffered a back injury late in Monday’s win over Brooklyn, and the difference in the offense was noticeable. “I mean, the whole game is completely different without Kyle. It’s everything. Everything,” DeRozan told reporters. “You can kind of tell with our ball movement wasn’t all the way there like it normally be when Kyle’s out there. Like I said, he’s a general on the floor. He sees things when they need to be called.” Lowry, who averaged 20.5 points in four regular-season games against the Cavaliers last season, had x-rays come back negative and is considered day-to-day.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Raptors PF Serge Ibaka was suspended one game after an altercation with Miami’s James Johnson on Tuesday.

2. Cavaliers SG Kyle Korver is 13-of-22 from 3-point range over the last four games.

3. Cleveland swept Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring.

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