The High 5 is where I give my reaction to the night’s games. This includes a look at the players who made a difference in the outcome, some additional notes and unique details that caught my attention.
The Thumb (Story of the Game)
The Toronto Raptors took on the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Quicken Loans arena on Monday night. This is a building that used to strike fear in the hearts of the Raptors fans; so many dreams were crushed in the house that LeBron built. But while the Raptors have evolved to be a mainstay at the top of the proverbial mountain, the Cavs have lost their king and have fallen to fight for scraps among the bottom feeders of the Eastern Conference. Coach Nurse is basically using this road trip as extended practice time. He is starting to figure out this Raptors puzzle as he continues to juggle his pieces. The talent of this team is undeniable, and the potential of this roster is finally starting to come to fruition. The Cavs are stumbling towards the end of the season while the Raptors are getting healthy, playing well and looking sharp. On paper, this was as one sided a matchup as you can get, but this is the NBA, and anything can happen on any night. The Cavs turned back the clock and absolutely dominated the Raptors en route to one of their most embarrassing losses of the season. Toronto looked flat and disinterested while the Cavs looked hungry and motivated. This was a humbling game for Toronto and one that they will wash their hands of and try to forget as quickly as possible.
Cleveland 126 Toronto 101.
The Index (The Leader)
Kyle Lowry had just about enough of the pesky Cavaliers in the second half as he grabbed his team by the bootstraps and tried to take over. He was moving with speed and purpose and shooting with confidence but tonight he needed more help from his teammates. Kyle hit 5 of his 8 shots including 4 from deep for 14 points. He also grabbed 5 rebounds, 6 assists, a steal and a block. His pitch aheads have become a thing of beauty and are often a staple of the morning highlight reels. An early trip to the locker room once the contest was decided is concerning. Coach Nurse may want to sit him a game or two down in these final weeks as Kyle has been known to fade in the post season.
The Middle (The Enemy)
Cedi Osmon learned a lot of tricks playing with Lebron in the summer runs and he applied them to the game tonight. He could not contain Kawhi on the defensive end, but he got his shots off to lead his team down the stretch of the game. He even managed an And-1 on Leonard which will no doubt be in his career highlight package. Osmon paced the Cavs with 19 points to go with 7 rebounds, 7 assists and a steal.
Shout outs to Colin Sexton for showing veterans poise and playing well beyond his years. He looked fantastic for the Cavs and will no doubt develop into a cornerstone of the franchise. Sexton was a menace tonight scoring a game high 28 points on 10/18 shooting from the floor.
The Ring (The X Factor)
Kawhi Leonard was sticking mid range jumpers like an archer hitting the bullseye. His shots are so accurate that the net barely moves on his makes. Leonard abused poor Cedi Osman on his was to another efficient shooting night. It looked like he was going through the motions and getting his reps in as he pretty much had his way whenever he had the ball. Though Raptor fans may complain at the amount of “rest” games Kawhi has taken, lets keep in mind that it will all be worth it to see a fresh, healthy, motivated Leonard in the playoffs. Leonard had 25 points on 11/19 from the floor to lead the Raptors with 9 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
His contributions may not show up on the stat sheet but OG Anunoby has been coming on late for Toronto with improving defense and energy. His ascension has not been as dramatic as Siakam’s, but he has been showing signs of growth in recent weeks to help stabilize the second unit. He looked a little lost out there, but he was responsible on D and was rewarded with the fourth most minutes on the team. OG scored 8 points along with 4 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block.
Player of the Game
Cleveland’s oft forgotten All Star Kevin Love is still putting in good work for the “Land”. He seems happy playing for the Cavs without the pressure and media hype that comes with LeBron’s circus. I am curious to see where Love fits with the Cavs future. He would shine as a secondary or tertiary star on any competing team. Love is still among the leagues best at stretching the offense to open passing lanes. He kept the defense honest with his outlet passes and deep shooting. Kevin was a thorn in the Raptors side scoring 16 points while grabbing an astounding 18 rebounds to go with 2 assists.
- Sloppy with the Ball – The Raptors had 20 turnovers compared to 12 for the Cavs.
- Injuries – Not only did the Raptors take an ugly loss but they also got banged up. Serge, Green and Lowry all took knocks.
- Suspension coming – Don’t be surprised to see head office come down with a suspension to Serge Ibaka for losing his composure and laying hands on Cleveland’s Marquese Chriss.
- Canadian Content – This game showcased 3 Canadians; Chris Boucher, Nik Stauskas and the injured Tristan Thompson.
- Live by the 3 – The Raptors were cold from deep only hitting 11 of their 39 shots from behind the arc. The Cavs responded by cashing in on 18 of their 41 attempts.
The Raptors have a few days to work the kinks about before facing off against the Lakers at home on Thursday night.