Raptors-Cavaliers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 18, 2012
The banged-up Toronto Raptors have finally won back-to-back games. Extending that mini-run could be a challenge given their struggles away from home. The Raptors will try to avoid the franchise's second 12-game road losing streak on Tuesday night when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers. Andrea Bargnani (elbow) and Kyle Lowry (triceps) have missed the last three games, but Toronto (6-19) has a chance to win three in a row for the first time since April 1-4. The Raptors are in that position after Jose Calderon posted his second career triple-double - and second this season - with 18 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds in Sunday's 103-96 victory over Houston. "I don't know if I'm going to be on the court or not but I want this team to win,'' said Calderon, who has been starting with Lowry sidelined. Bargnani is out indefinitely and Lowry is likely to miss at least a few more games, so Calderon should get another chance to play big minutes. Cleveland was short-handed when it last faced the Raptors, playing without Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao when it visited Canada on April 6. But the Cavaliers avoided a four-game sweep in the season series with an 84-80 victory, snapping the Raptors' longest winning streak of last season. Toronto posted eight-point victories in both of its visits to Cleveland in 2011-12 - and has won in three consecutive trips since LeBron James left - but the team is winless on the road since Nov. 13 versus Indiana. Another defeat would send the Raptors to their first 12-game road skid since a franchise-record 14-game slide Jan. 7-March 16, 2011. While Toronto has shown positive signs on the defensive end, holding its last four opponents to 96 points or fewer, slowing down Irving and rookie Dion Waiters, who is expected to return from an eight-game injury absence, could be a tall task for Calderon and DeMar DeRozan. Irving, who is playing with a face mask after breaking a bone in his face on Friday against Milwaukee, scored a career-best 41 points in Saturday's 103-102 loss at New York. The reigning rookie of the year poured in 17 fourth-quarter points, but he passed the ball to Varejao on the team's final play. Varejao missed the second of two free throws with one second remaining, sending Cleveland (5-20) to its third straight defeat. "There's always temptation there (to shoot), but I have the utmost trust in my teammates and you know Andy made a great play, got to the free throw line and gave ourselves a chance to win,'' Irving said. Waiters could give the Cavaliers another scoring option in these late-game situations after missing time with a sprained left ankle, and they need one considering they're 1-7 in games decided by five points or fewer. "We've been in a lot of close games and we just gotta find a way to win," Waiters, who is averaging 15.2 points, said after Monday's practice. Cavs coach Byron Scott wouldn't say if Waiters will return to the lineup considering how well C.J. Miles has played in his place. Miles is averaging 22.5 points and has made 17 of 33 from 3-point range since being inserted into the starting lineup four games ago. Forward Ed Davis has totaled 43 points - second to DeRozan's 44 - with a team-best 26 boards while starting in place of Bargnani the last three games.
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