Toronto, ON- Who would have thought the offense would let them down?
The second-best offensive team in the NBA couldn’t buy a bucket on Friday night, and despite the usual never-say-die attitude, the Toronto Raptors (15-5) fell 105-91 to the Cleveland Cavaliers (11-7) at the Air Canada Centre. Incredibly, ninety-one points marked a season low for the Raptors.
Everyone not named Amir Johnson and Kyle Lowry struggled from the field, with the Raptors collectively shooting 40%, (they shot under 40% until the fourth). The Raptors were even worse from beyond the arc, a horrid 33%. Once again, fourth quarter numbers inflated that number, which floated around the 20 percentile for much of the evening.
“We were just missing shots, I don’t think there’s anything we could have done differently,” said Kyle Lowry.
Shooting was the difference on a night when the Raptors played good enough defense to win the game. The Cavs were forced into 13 turnovers, and were called for 21 personal fouls. But it’s hard to mount a comeback when the shots aren’t falling.
The unforgiving rim affected many of the Raptors usually strong shooters. From the field, Patrick Patterson went 2-8, Terrence Ross 2-9, Greivis Vasquez 2-11 and Lou Williams 2-7. Before Friday’s game, those players were shooting a respective, 46%, 46%, 40%, and 42%, this season. In addition, Jonas Valanciunas was completely ineffective (seven points, two rebounds, three fouls in 20 minutes), and was outplayed by both Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson.
“I thought by missing shots, our bad offensive night went over to our defense and made our defense even worse. It was a snowball effect, “ said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “They whooped us, they spanked us, and we have to put this game in the rearview mirror and get ready for Denver.”
Only two Raptors were able to fill the score sheet Friday. Amir Johnson exploded with a season high 27 points to go along with seven rebounds. Amir led all scorers and was active on just about every rebound.
Of course, Kyle Lowry also came out to play. He was his usual aggressive self, leading the offense to several failed comeback attempts. Lowry finished with 22 points (7-18 FG) and nine assists.
The Cavaliers played well from start to finish and were clearly the better team. In a dominant second half, they only allowed the Raptors a lead for a few seconds at the 6:45 mark of the third quarter. They followed that with a 19-6 run and never looked back. There seemed to be no signs of exhaustion as the Cavs finished a back-to-back 2-0, squeaking out a win against the New York Knicks Thursday night.
Lebron James scored a quiet yet effective 24 points, and he made his team better adding 11 assists. Lebron always seemed to have an eye on his teammates, setting up and passing with exquisite accuracy. He treated a hostile ACC crowd to a plethora of behind-the-back, no-look and under-the-leg passes. Despite the win, Lebron was very humble and spoke only about the need to get better.
“We are very close,” he said. “We are not that good yet to be able to take possessions off and still be able to get back. I think the progression we have made the last couple of weeks is definitely a plus,” said Lebron.
The Cavs, who struggled out of the gates, have now won six in a row and have moved to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Brampton, Ontario’s Tristan Thompson benefitted the most from Lebron’s unselfishness, and had himself a night in front of his home crowd. Thompson put up a double-double, scoring a season high 21 points along with 14 rebounds.
Cavaliers Coach David Blatt spoke very highly of Thompson.
“Tristan came out and played an exceptional game on both ends of the court, defending, rebounding in traffic, finishing around the basket. Obviously he was a key to our win,” said Blatt.
The Raptors will get a chance at revenge. They’ll get the weekend off before playing the Nuggets at home on Monday. On Tuesday, the Raptors and Cavaliers will do battle again, this time in Cleveland.
Game notes: There were many celebrities and athletes in attendance Friday night as the Raptors celebrated The Giants of Africa, a celebration honouring the 1st anniversary of Nelsen Mandela’s death. Former players Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Dikembe Mutombo, and Tracy McGrady were at the ACC. Those players and Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri spoke about Mandela’s impact on them and the sport of basketball. The Raptors also honoured McGrady with a video montage as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations.
Before the game, Demar Derozan spoke with the media to give an update on his groin injury. The Raptors are evaluating Derozan week-to-week and have no timetable on his return.