When the Cavaliers face the Toronto Raptors, they’ll face a team that truly believes it can overtake the Cavs in the East.
Last season, it was the Cavs and the Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. This season, it’s just Game No. 2 with a whole lot of hoops to be made.
“It’s a good opportunity to go against the best team, in my mind, in the league,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters in Toronto. “They have every weapon that you could look for.”
Casey wasn’t finished.
“They have the best player in the world and one of the best rosters in the world,” he said. “So it’s a good test for us.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre.
Both the Cavs and Raptors are coming off dynamic openers. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavs received championship rings and watched a banner rise to the rafters.
Then they throttled New York by 29 points.
Meanwhile, the Raptors are coming off a victory over Detroit — a game in which Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan erupted for 40 points. Adding to that was the 32 scored by big center Jonas Valanciunas vs. Pistons center Andre Drummond.
So DeRozan, Valanciunas and the Raptors are feeling good.
Of course, the Cavs have a pretty good one as well in James. All he did was open the season with a triple-double: 19 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds.
It was a performance that had Cavs coach Tyronn Lue comparing James, 31, to Benjamin Button, the fictional character who ages in reverse. James looked 19 again, Lue marveled.
No one man can stop LeBron, added Casey.
“It has to be five guys tied together,” Casey said, using phrases such as a “situational zone” to explain the Raptors’ defensive strategy vs. James.
As the Raptors know, though, the world champion Cavs are more than just LeBron.
Irving scored 29 points in the opener, and Love had 23 with 12 rebounds. The Cavs are deep, experienced and no longer play with even a hint of doubt.
But the Raptors will tell you they believe that they too are back and better than before.
So yes, this is just the second game of the year, and it involves two teams that plan to still be playing in late May, and even into June.
It’s also a game that can help each team put a little bit of a stamp on being the early East kings.
“I would rather have it now, early in the season, to let us know where we are,” Casey said.
Cavaliers guards Iman Shumpert and Kay Felder are expected to play after experiencing concussion-like symptoms earlier in the week. Felder suffered the injury in practice and missed the opener. So this will serve as the rookie’s pro debut. … Small forward Pascal Siakam became just the fifth Raptor in franchise history to start the first game of his rookie year. He was selected at No. 27 overall in the June draft. Siakam finished with four points and nine boards vs. the Pistons.