It’s crazy to see this team playing so well. It’s almost like living in a dream that you’d hate waking up from. These days, it seems like no matter how much the odds are stacked against the Toronto Raptors, they find a way to fight through adversity and give themselves opportunities for a victory. Tonight was no different. After falling down 18 points early versus the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter, the Raptors got their 11th win of the season, emerging victorious over LeBron James and company 110-93. Though the Cavs have gotten off to a rocky start to their 2014-15 campaign, it’s hard to deny that this one was a statement win for Toronto— especially versus an Eastern Conference opponent almost guaranteed to be in the mix come mid-April.
The team shooting numbers weren’t great, but they were just enough to get the Raptors over the hump tonight. Simply put— Toronto was shooting stinkers for the first stanza. Although the Cavs have been pretty bad on the defensive side of things during their first 11 games, they absolutely locked down the Raptors in the early stages of this one. It looked like it was going to be a long night for the men in red… then the second quarter happened.
Lou Williams had enough. The hot-handed offseason acquisition absolutely took over. While DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and the rest of the Raptors starters were ice-cold, Sweet Lou came in and spiced things up with his ability to draw fouls on jumpshots, killer crossovers, and his lethal step-back jumpers. Before one could blink, Williams had 24 at halftime. The onslaught continued in the third quarter, and eventually Williams’ rhythm became contagious. The other Raptors finally started to contribute, and the team found a way to pull away. Following Cleveland’s 12-0 run to begin the game, Toronto outscored the Cavs 110-81. Yup, you read that correctly. In the 17 point victory, Lou Williams finished with a career high 36 points, while DeRozan and Lowry finished with 20 and 23 points respectively, despite tough starts. Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson combined for 14 points on 6/12 shooting, while Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson combined for 12 points of the bench (minus Tyler Hansbrough and James Johnson).
Like the offense, the defense wasn’t very good in the early stages of the game. But like this Raptors team has taught us time and time again, this is a game of four quarters. After shooting more than 70% from the field for the vast majority of the opening frame, Cleveland cooled down for the remainder of the game. The “big 3” got off to a solid start in this one, but had a quiet finish. Kyrie Irving had 18 points in the first half, and finished with only 21. Kevin Love looked like a focal point in the Cavs offense in the beginning, and finished with just 23, although he appeared to be on pace for 30+. King James seemed somewhat passive in this one, dropping impressive dimes throughout, but never really leaving an emphatic imprint on this game— he finished with 15 points and 10 assists. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson pitched in too, combining for 24, but it wasn’t enough. As a team, the Cavaliers shot only 43% from the field, and went 3/16 from long range. After the first 12 minutes, it wasn’t pretty for the home team.
A win is a win, but a better performance on the glass would’ve been nice for the Raptors. The team continued their woes on the boards tonight, getting outrebounded 46-34. The deficit wasn’t extremely apparent throughout the game because the Raptors found a way to limit second chance points. Things could have been worse. Patterson recorded a team high with six rebounds. Varejao had a game high with 12.
Game Ball: Lou Williams
Sweet Lou. Willmatic. When he’s off, you may pull your hair. When he’s on, you’ve gotta love it. Especially if you made the trip down to Ohio (like an entire section’s worth of Raptors fans did tonight). They witnessed the offensive spark plug have arguably the best game of his career, they saw another buzzer beater from Toronto’s #23, and most importantly, the fine folks from the north observed win #11 on the season.