The Toronto Raptors lost 122-100 to a fully loaded Cleveland Cavaliers squad, to give them their second straight loss of the New Year.
The Raptors played without starter DeMarre Carroll, as they went against LeBron James and the Cavaliers in their second matchup of the season. But it was the Cavaliers backcourt, consisting of J.R Smith and Kyrie Irving, that beat the Raptors on Monday night.
The Raptors only led once in the early minutes of the first quarter, and remained in the game till halftime by a score of 58-56. In the second half, the Raptors wouldn’t make the necessary adjustments. Instead they watched the Cavaliers up their defensive intensity, producing a 64-44 second half performance.
The loss proved that the Raptors are still a step behind the Cavaliers at the top of the East, with all of the Cavalier starters scoring in double-digits.
The Raptors were never able to hold a long stretch of momentum at any point of the game. They started by climbing back from a 13-point deficit in the early goings, to tie up the score at 47-47 in the second quarter. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both scored 14 points in the first half, while receiving some additional help from Patrick Patterson’s 9 points of his eventual 15 that night.
The second half, most notably the fourth quarter was a disaster for the Raptors. They entered the fourth quarter down by 12 points, looking for their superstar backcourt to get things going. They were able to cut the deficit to 7 at the 10:48 mark, but the Cavaliers responded with an 11-2 run. Despite Lowry earning his third straight double double, he and DeRozan only combined for 4 points in the final frame.
They would have received a lower grade, but the Raptors did shoot 49 per cent from the field.
Without Carroll in the starting lineup due to knee soreness, it was assumed that LeBron James would take over against the Raptors. Instead, Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smtih combined for 49 points against a healthy Toronto backcourt.
Coming into the game, the Cavaliers shot the fourth most 3s per game in the entire NBA. Instead of the Raptors chasing them off the 3-point line, they allowed the Cavs to spark up 33 attempts, including 8 J.R. Smith 3-pointers. As a team, the Cavs converted their downtown shots at a 52 per cent clip.
Bismack Biyombo and Jonas Valanciunas did combine down-low for 3 blocks. Including an insane Biymbo rejection on Tristan Thompson.
To infinity and Biyombo! https://t.co/zs5J4u7nAx
— Bryan Meler (@BryanMelo97) January 5, 2016
The Raptors hustle was matched by their rebounding efforts, losing on the glass 40-26 to the Cavaliers bigs. No Raptor was able to enter double-digit rebounding numbers, the closest was Valanciunas with 8 boards.
On the other side, Kevin Love and Thompson remained a powerful force to be reckoned with, combining for 20 boards. They also snatched 8 offensive rebounds, leading to second chance opportunities for Cleveland’s high-powered offence.
Game Ball: Kyrie Irving
After missing 24 games to start the season, Irving’s performance against the Raptors is a huge sign for the Cavaliers. Not to mention, a scary reality for the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Tonight, was the first time all season that Irving scored at least 20 points while shooting over 45 per cent from the field. His game seems to be right on track, as he sliced and diced the Raptors all night with crafty jumpers and layups.
— Cavs Nation (@CavsNationNet) January 5, 2016
Irving’s most notable contribution was in the fourth quarter, where he scored 9 of his 25 points, allowing James to sit out the final frame. Irving also finished the game with 8 assists, 6 boards, while shooting 10-16 from the field.
— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 5, 2016
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97