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The Toronto Raptors have been waiting for this moment for quite some time. Since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, in fact.
The Raps finally get a chance at revenge when they host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday night. There's quite a history between these two squads, given Cleveland has eliminated Toronto in each of the last two postseasons. You can expect Dwane Casey's club to use this game to show everyone that they mean business and truly belong in the contender category along with the likes of Cleveland and Boston.
So far, the New Year has been very kind to the Raptors, as they've won four of their five games to start 2018. If you go even farther back in Toronto's schedule, you'll notice the team has an impressive 11-3 record in its past 14 contests. With each passing game, the Raptors seem to be developing more chemistry with one another, as well as increased comfort when it comes to moving the ball with purpose and creating good looks. If there's one negative so far this season, it's that Toronto is 11-8 against teams above-.500. To be the best, you've got to beat the best, which is something the Raps have struggled with somewhat this season.
Isaiah Thomas is finally healthy, which means we'll slowly start to get an idea of how this Cleveland team will be functioning, at least on the offensive end, come playoff time. It will take some time for Tyronn Lue to etch out a role for a dominant scorer like Thomas, but once he does, the rest of the league should be on high alert. LeBron James continues to fill the stat sheet each and every game for the Cavaliers, who after a slow start to the season, are starting to reestablish themselves as the team to beat out East. The team's defence is an ongoing concern and tends to plague them more often than not, especially against the league's elite. But with an offence as potent as Cleveland's, most nights they'll have no problem simply outscoring the opposition.
Watchability Ranking - 10/10
This game is as must-watch a game as any so far this season, largely because it will go a long way in showing how the new-look Raptors stack up against the East's most elite team. Also, you can expect a highly competitive contest for 48 minutes given the bad-blood and history between these two clubs.
Game-time is set for 8:00 PM ET. Below are the projected starting lineups: