Shorthanded Cavs take winning ways to Raptors

Injuries leave Cleveland without three key guys, but guess who owns NBA's longest winning streak? Pregame bullets.

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown (right) reacts beside point guard Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Quicken Loans Arena.

David Richard / USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers (22-33) at Toronto Raptors (29-25)

Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto.

TV: 7 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio (Cavaliers Live pregame starts at 6:30 p.m.)

Projected Starters

CLEVELAND: C Tyler Zeller; PF Tristan Thompson; SF Luol Deng; SG Jarrett Jack; PG Kyrie Irving.

TORONTO: C Jonas Valanciunas; PF Patrick Patterson; SF Terrence Ross; SG DeMar DeRozan; PG Kyle Lowry.

Pregame Notes:

-- Let's start with this: Following the Rockets' loss Thursday at the Warriors, your Cavaliers now own the NBA's current longest winning streak at six.

-- It's gonna be doggone tough to stretch it to seven. The Raptors are a young team that plays well together, plays with enthusiasm and believes it can win. On top of that, the Raptors are at home. And on top of that, the Cavs are terribly shorthanded.

-- On the bright side, new addition Spencer Hawes is expected to play tonight. The 7-footer doesn't really know a whole lot of what's expected, considering the Cavs just obtained him Thursday in the trade with Philadelphia. But coach Mike Brown offered some solid advice about Hawes: "If you're open, shoot it. If not, pass it."

-- Brown might want to consider playing the starters 40-plus minutes, considering injuries have decimated the bench. Neither Dion Waiters (knee) nor C.J. Miles (ankle) made the trip. Those two are in Cleveland receiving treatment with Anderson Varejao (back), who will miss his fifth straight game.

-- That leaves Brown with the starters, and Hawes, Anthony Bennett, Alonzo Gee and Matthew Dellavedova off the bench. That's not an awful situation, but again, it's gonna be tough when you're playing a unified bunch like the Raptors.

-- As an aside, a Cavs spokesmen said none of the injuries are serious and that Waiters, Miles and Varejao are likely to return soon.

-- Sometimes, guys play their best after the trade deadline. They know they're gonna be here the rest of the year, and therefore, can breathe a little easier. They can focus on basketball. It's true Deng, Hawes and Miles will be free agents at the end of the season, but the players and front office can worry about that in July. Right now, everyone's efforts can be on making the playoffs, period.

-- The Cavs are three games behind the Bobcats for the final playoff spot with 27 to go. The Bobcats' schedule is definitely easier the rest of the way, as they've already knocked out both trips to the West Coast. They have 13 home games remaining, and 13 on the road. That includes a home game vs. the Cavs (March 7) and a visit to The Q (April 5).

-- Read: The chase for the playoffs will go to the wire, but if the Cavs continue to play close to this well, it probably won't matter much. You will have to like their chances.

-- I will be joining Jeff Phelps and Campy Russell on the Cavaliers Live pregame show from the FOX Sports Ohio studios to talk about NBA trade deadline winners and losers. Showtime is 6:30 p.m.

-- Enjoy the game and I'll talk to you after.

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