Before we get into this report, give me a minute to wipe the tears off my keyboard.
Following last night’s gritty victory over the Denver Nuggets, the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors fell 105-101 at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in lovely Ohio. It was the third meeting between the squads in 18 days and the Cavs won the mini series 2-1. Toronto got off to a thunderous start, outscoring the home team 63-55 in the first half behind superb performances from Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry. After a passable third frame, the Raps failed to produce in the fourth, conceding a 14 point lead and falling asleep on perimeter defense. Lebron James came through with the last-minute three to push Cleveland ahead and eventually secure the comeback win. Lowry put up 16 points and 14 assists while Valanciunas added 18 points and 15 rebounds. On the flip side, James casually recorded 35 points on 12-21 shooting and Kyrie Irving poured in a double-double with 13 points and 10 helpers. Also worth noting is the impressive outing from Matthew Dellavedova, who provided a much-needed presence on the defensive end for his crew. The Australian guard was not afraid to clog the lane and bother the Dinos in their offensive push. It’s another heartbreaking loss for Toronto in the absence of DeMar DeRozan. The team drops to 16-6 on the season and looks forward to Friday’s matchup against the Indiana Pacers at the ACC. Here’s the post-game report card for tonight:
The Raptors shot 51.2% from the field in the losing effort. Aside from the aforementioned performances from Lowry and JV, Terrence Ross contributed 18 points on 8-13 shooting to sustain his recent trend of production. As a team, Toronto played an excellent first 36 minutes of offensive basketball, yet collapsed in the final quarter due to a glaring lack of foul shots (none) and lackluster shot selection down the stretch (Lowry’s potential go-ahead bucket bounced over the backboard along with any hope of winning the game). Despite the frustrating lapse in judgement, there are no major causes for concern in the Raps’ offensive game, especially with DeRozan sitting out. Going forward I would expect increased roles from Patrick Patterson and James Johnson. Although these two did not put up monstrous numbers on the stat sheet, they have proven their two-way value over this recent stretch of games.
Again, it was another case of a strong start and unfortunate collapse before the buzzer. Landry Fields received the starting nod to slow down the expected conquest of James. Amir Johnson provided his usual presence in the paint but was evidently fatigued on the second night of a back-to-back. As a result, he saw reduced minutes and his fellow Johnson was called upon to hold off Cleveland. The biggest issue in the defensive category was the assignment to James. Fields played just 23 minutes despite the start and the so-called King freely dominated Toronto on the offensive end. I know it’s near-impossible to stop the guy, so this is forgivable.
The Raps outrebounded Cleveland 35-27 on the night. This is good, right? Unfortunately, although the scoresheet indicates a minor victory in the rebounding category, the Cavs secured five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. This was instrumental in their successful comeback as it allowed for offensive resets and unnecessary second chance points. The lack of late boards were responsible for Toronto’s first loss of the season in which it led after three quarters. RIP to that beautiful streak.
Game Ball: Lebron James
[insert generic comment about James being the best player alive who tears apart any team in his path for glory in his home region of Northeastern Ohio]
Side note: Who else is sick of that Nike/Lebron/Cleveland commercial? It’s played more than the game of basketball itself.