Things are grim for the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference finals. Not only are they struggling to even be within striking distance of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but we don’t even know if their center Jonas Valanciunas will even get to participate in the series. He’s been out since the middle of Game 3 of Toronto’s second-round series against the Miami Heat, and has already been in a suit for the first two games of the ECF.
During the broadcast of Game 2 Thursday night, ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Breen informed us Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Valanciunas “definitely won’t play” Game 3 in Toronto on Saturday. And Game 4 doesn’t sound like a great bet either.
“Jonas Valanciunas. He will definitely not play in Game 3, according to Dwane Casey. He’s still not close. They’re hoping maybe Game 4, but you get the feeling that’s wishful thinking.”
After the Cavs destroyed the Raptors 108-89 to take a 2-0 lead in the series, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was asked directly about Valanciunas’ availability. “We’ll see,” Casey said.
None of this sounds good for the Raptors because they could really use Valanciunas in this series. Tristan Thompson is destroying the Raptors on the boards, and Valanciunas has been the best and most consistent Raptors player in the postseason — even with the missed games. In the 10 playoff games he’s played in this postseason, the Raptors’ big man is averaging 15 points and 12.1 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the field.
The Raptors were just a minus-0.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in the postseason, but are a minus-6.6 with him not in the game. The offense hasn’t changed much and has struggled with pretty much anybody on the court. But the defense is 5.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. It doesn’t change the fact that this is the most accomplished Raptors team in franchise history, but it’s a sour end to their season if he can’t get back on the floor and they end up getting swept.