Just some more updates, and a few player previews to toss into this Boxing Day matchup.
In honor of the fourth installment of the Matrix series’ coming out this weekend, I was going to toss a Keanu Reeves’ the Replacements joke in here. But something about this game feels less fun and more concerning — as if I just took the red pill, and this is the exact moment which the glittery façade of reality has begun to splinter away.
And again, in honor of the fourth installment of the Matrix series, the Toronto Raptors flew just four of its roster to Cleveland — along with a limited coaching staff — to face off against a Cleveland Cavaliers squad experiencing its own Nietzsche-level identity problems today.
Here’s a quick recap of what we know so far:
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 6 p.m. EST
let’s get funky
Toronto — Tremont Waters, Svi Mykhailiuk, Yuta Watanabe, Juwan Morgan Chris Boucher
Cleveland — Darius Garland, Ricky Rubio, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Lauri Markkanen
Toronto — Precious Achiuwa, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Khem Birch, Justin Champagnie, Goran Dragić (not with team), Malachi Flynn, David Johnson (leg injury), Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent, Fred VanVleet (all in HSP)
Cleveland — Jarrett Allen, Ed Davis, Evan Mobley, RJ Nembhard, Isaac Okoro, Collin Sexton (out for season), Lamar Stevens, Dylan Win (pretty sure all in HSP)
Meet the Replacements
I’ve spent the afternoon compiling the goods on the players Toronto will be suiting up this evening, and to be frank, things could be worse. Assuming Brandon Goodwin and Nik Stauskas (looking tougher to guarantee the closer we get to 6 o’clock) are cleared before the tip, perimeter scoring shouldn’t be a problem, and with Cleveland’s defensively stout post missing the game, the rim could be a prime point of attack for guard Tremont Waters and centre Daniel Oturu.
Juwan Morgan, Forward, 6-7, Maine
A lot has been made about the Juwan Morgan signing this past week: he was OG Anunoby’s room- and teammate during his sole year at Indiana University; a fun reconnect who will be sure to rouse some smiles out of the stoic forward. Beyond that, however, he appears to be fundamentally sound as a basketball player, and I would go so far as to say a true asset to the Raptors should they decide to hang onto him into the trade season.
His shooting percentages are extraordinary and he appears to have potential as a 3-and-D operator. His attempts per game are low — signaling a respectable enough offensive feel for the game (I’ll admit I haven’t seen enough to make a judgment call on it and feel confident) and he’s been lights out from inside the arc throughout his collegiate and burgeoning pro careers and appears to have been working on his distance shot since 2019.
D.J. Wilson, Forward, 6-10, OKC
Wilson is a player most Raptors fans can recall from his days in a Bucks’ jersey. Those 12 minutes he’d go against us were usually a pain in the ass, because the kid’s got bounce that doesn’t quit. He skies for rebounds, blocks and dunks and doesn’t give a hootenanny if someone is in his way. I’m personally most excited for Wilson and Oturu, who we’ll cover as well, because we’ve gotten some really inconsistent play from our frontcourt this season and just the presence of hungry youth could light a couple fires on the bench.
Daniel Oturu, Centre, 6-9, Windy City
This 6-foot-9 bruiser of a body hails from Gopher country, and puts Paul Bunyan to shame to boot. He’s an uncontrollable force in the post on both ends, and he gobbles up offensive rebounds like dinner rolls. In seven games for the WC Bulls, he’s averaging 4.1 offensive boards, and 20.3 points in 32 minutes of action. He’s not only aware of his size in the post, he can drift out and sink an open three as well. Those attempts may sully his overall FG percentage a bit, but it still sits north of 63 percent. A lamp post who can’t be moved off his block? Sign me up.
Tremont Waters, Point Guard, 5-11, Wisconsin
Likely who we’ll see handle primary handler duties tonight, outside of the funky Nurse lineups featuring Banton or Yuta at point, and he’s got the goods. Just 23 years old, Waters makes up for in confidence what he lacks in size. He’s hitting triples at nearly 38 percent on the nose, and picks off 2.6 passes per night defensively. He fits the mould of what Toronto has played so far through 30 games, so if Nurse just asks him to go in and play the Tremont Waters’ brand of basketball, Waters should be comfortable.
Even if the team ultimately can’t go with Brandon Goodwin and Nik Stauskas, I’m liking the makeup of this team as it stands. If Masai is forced to do something unconventional, by now you better believe that he’ll do it only as Masai does — perfectly.