Raptors, Cavs, and the East’s Crucial Battle

Tonight the Toronto Raptors welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers to Canada for a pivotal Eastern Conference clash. A quick snapshot of the East’s standings shows Toronto’s 2.5 game lead over Cleveland in the standings, while the Raptors have only one more loss than the Boston Celtics. A Raptors win launches their top-seed bid, while a Cavs win pulls Cleveland back to 1.5 games behind. . .with the Raptors playing the Warriors in two days.

The Raptors are 14-2 at home on the year, better than the Warriors and Rockets. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will once again lead the charge, although Lowry’s status is in question with a bruised tailbone. OG Anunoby and CJ Miles will combine for the unenviable task of slowing down LeBron James, while Jonas Valanciunas’ mideason surge will need to continue. Starting power forward Serge Ibaka is out due to suspension.

Projected starting lineup: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Jonas Valanciunas

The Cavaliers are on a skid, posting a 4-6 mark over their last ten games. LeBron James’ superhuman efforts will need to be helped on by someone else, and Isaiah Thomas’ shoot-first mentality is not what is needed for Cleveland’s point guard. Kevin Love’s rebounding will be the key, due to the aforementioned Ibaka suspension.

Projected starting lineup: Isaiah Thomas, JR Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson.

Although they’re banged up, the Raptors should continue their incredible run with a victory, as Cleveland will face an increasing threat from the surging fourth-placed Heat.

Pick: Raptors 112, Cavaliers 105


Analyzing the NBA Standings at the Start of 2018

2017 is over and done with, and basketball has served up some surprises. After the Whistle takes a look at where teams stand heading into the new year.

Eastern Conference

1. Celtics—32-10

2. Raptors—27-10

3. Cavaliers—25-13

4. Wizards—23-16

5. Heat—21-17

 6. Bucks 20-17

7. Pistons 20-17

8. 76ers 19-19

Just outside: Pacers (19-19) and Knicks (18-21)

Talking points

Celtics on Top

Boston has played the NBA’s most packed schedule since October, and is off to a terrific start. Al Horford might be the most improved player in basketball, and Kyrie Irving’s 24.4 points per game paces the East’s top unit.

Raptor Resurgence

Toronto could be the best team in the East. Level in the loss column with Boston, the Raptors are still paced by DeMar DeRozan (25 PPG), but the bench has transformed into a fearsome unit led by Delon Wright (8.9 PPG, 1.2 SPG).

All-Star Oladipo

The Pacers combo guard has lit up for 24.9 points per game, fueled by a terrific 42.3% clip from the arc. Oladipo is carrying the Pacers within striking distance of a playoff spot.

The East’s current All-Stars. . .

G Victor Oladipo, Pacers

G DeMar DeRozan, Raptors

F LeBron James, Cavaliers

F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

C Al Horford, Celtics


Western Conference

1. Warriors—31-8

2. Rockets—27-10

3. Spurs—27-13

4. Timberwolves—24-16

5. Thunder—22-17

6. Nuggets—21-17

7. Trail Blazers—20-18

8. Pelicans—19-18

Just outside: Clippers (17-20) and Jazz (16-23)

Talking points

The Rockets Fall

Houston was on pace for the top seed heading into Christmas weekend, but lost the perch due to losing six of their last ten. To make matters worse, James Harden is out for at least two weeks with a hamstring injury.

The Muddled Five-seed Race

The Thunder have surged up into the five spot, but the Nuggets and Trail Blazers lurk within 1.5 games, and the Pelicans can beat anyone with their Davis-Cousins tandem. Just something to keep an eye on. . .

The (Even More) Muddled 8-seed Race

The Clippers have surged into the picture to contend with the inconsistent Pelicans, and the Jazz have the pieces to string together a long winning streak. Who wants to get blown out by the Warriors?

The West’s current All-Stars. . .

G Russell Westbrook, Thunder

G James Harden, Rockets

F Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves

F Kevin Durant, Warriors

C DeMarcus Cousins, Pelicans

C.J. Miles: Toronto’s new star

November 24, 2015. The Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards produced a thrilling 123-106 result. Anyone who watched it on the local television remembers Paul George’s 40 points. We remember the Pacers draining a franchise-record 19 threes. But who remembers the massive box score of C.J. Miles? The 6’6″ wing put up 32 points on the night, draining eight threes out of nine attempts, leading to a +27 plus/minus. In only thirty minutes.

In fact, Miles has done this quite often since joining the league as a wide-eyed 18 year old. Since joining Indiana from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, now 30 year old  C.J. has averaged over 10 points per game despite only playing half the minutes of regular starters. He’s no slouch from behind the arc, only dipping below a .320 average once since 2006-07. But Miles wasn’t getting enough playing time in Indiana, and he needed a change. Especially for a player as good as the 6’6″ wing.

Enter the Toronto Raptors. The Eastern Conference finalists allowed Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker to walk away in free agency. They nabbed a player who posted a higher points-per-possession ratio than noted flamethrower Steph Curry on the NBA’s 137th highest contract. Who’s that, you ask?

Have fun in Toronto, C.J. Miles!