Sometimes throughout the course of a season like the Cavaliers are having this year, one can surmise fairly easily how the night is going to go without having to watch the game. It’s not that one is being overly pessimistic or has a lack of hope in their team, just that they are so overmatched that it is evident that short of a miracle, the game is going to turn into a loss.
It’s like in the movie Jurassic Park when Dr. Ian Malcolm warns the team that you can’t control nature nor can you control something powerful. And then Dr. Grant, Dr. Sattler, Dr. Malcolm, that pesky lawyer Gennaro, and the two children Tim and Lex pile into the Jurassic Jeeps anyways. Don’t worry, nothing bad is going to happen. Except we know that it will. And it did.
The Cavaliers unfortunately did not have enough to challenge the top of the East on this night, despite the Raptors featuring several key injuries to Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Danny Green. Despite being outmatched, the Cavs kept within striking distance for most of the game only to be overmatched in the fourth quarter and come up short. They entered the fourth frame down only six, though the finally tally ended at 126-110. In the ominous words of Samuel L. Jackson’s Arnold, “Hold onto your butts.”
The first quarter started a bit rough for Cleveland as the Raptors jumped out to a 12 point lead in the first 3:00 minutes of the game. Toronto notched three mid range shots and two three pointers that were matched by a single, solitary drive to the hoop by Cedi Osman. Combine that with a couple of turnovers, including a travel by Larry Nance Jr. and a quick first timeout by Coach Larry Drew. Nearly a minute later, Drew had to call another. Fortunately, after the second timeout, the Cavaliers were able to find the basket with a little more ease as Rodney Hood was fouled and made both of his free throws. Those were followed up by a couple of mid range twos from Collin Sexton that weren’t exactly in the flow of the offense. Then things stalled again on the offensive end as the rookie point guard struggled to finish at the rim. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much the Cleveland could do to stop the 15-point first quarter for OG Anunoby. The reserves checked in and kept things close for the remainder of the quarter and ended it down 34-28.
The second quarter was a little less one-sided as Jordan Clarkson, Matty D, and Ante Zizic started things off hot with a pair of threes and a 14-footer. The starters checked back in but had trouble keeping pace with the Raptors, as has been the case more than once this season. It seemed like Sexton had trouble every time he managed to get into the lane. Whether he was unable to finish or whether he turned the ball over, the results weren’t great. The rookie needs to work on keeping his dribble and navigating the lane if he’s going to want to be truly successful in this league. Still, there were some bright spots as Nance continues to play well, find the open space, and initiate the offense, as well as showing out a bit on the defensive end. Check out this wide open alley-oop he received courtesy of Alec Burks.
The Cavaliers were able to keep this quarter a bit closer but weren’t able to actually outscore Leonard and the rest of the Toronto Raptors. Anunoby quieted down but the rest of Toronto was able to keep Cleveland at arms length for the remainder of the quarter. Nonetheless, the Cavs continued to fight and managed to finish the first half down only seven with a score of 59-52.
The third quarter actually featured some scoring by the Cavs and started off with three pointer by David Nwaba who would eventually exit the third quarter after twisting his ankle. The Cavaliers can’t really afford any more injuries right now, especially one to Nwaba who just managed to return from his last injury, so hopefully this isn’t anything serious. Still, he managed to get another three before needing to leave. David finished the night with only 6 points and a rebound in just 14 minutes of play. Between those two threes, the Raptors showed the Cleveland just how much they are missing big men Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love in the rebounding department as Pascal Siakam proceeded to miss layup after layup only to continue to get his own rebound and eventually tip it in. Watch the unfortunate sequence below. They ended the third down 99-93 and still within striking distance of the predators from the North.
Unfortunately, the fourth quarter is when things fell off the rails a bit and the dinos finally started to escape their exhibits. Cleveland only managed to score 17 points in the final frame while the Raptors matched that with 27 of their own, including this monster jam by Anunoby.
The Cavs could just not get anything going as each possession seemed to end in a missed mid range shot or a turnover. Sexton was particularly guilty of this as he missed a bunch, was guilty of a couple of turnovers and some stupid fouls. Combine that with their continued inability to guard the perimeter in any sort of meaningful way and things got a bit ugly in the final stretch. Still, Cleveland fought the prehistoric ballers and did not give up despite being outmatched. The game ended with the final score of 127-110.
Kawhi Leonard proved to be too much for Cleveland to handle and really that is no surprise. He finished the night with a season high 37 points, 6 rebounds, an assist, and a steal. He was much more like the Tyrannosaurus Rex stomping around the court doing whatever he wanted than he was one of those pesky Velociraptors. Ultimately, the Cavs just didn’t have an answer.
1) Really, this one wasn’t as ugly as the Jurassic Park metaphor suggests, I just couldn’t resist. Cleveland fought and kept pace with one of the best teams in the League for most of the game. Though, let’s remember, the Raptors were without some of their key starters/rotation pieces. Still, the game didn’t end with Kawhi Leonard stomping into the visitors center and leaving the park in complete and utter disarray.
2) Larry Nance Jr. continues to be impressive as he benefits from the increased playing time in the absence of Love and Thompson. He finished the night with another double double. He had 16 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. Not a bad outing for the big man. If he keeps this up, he could be an all-star in no time. Though without LeBron in Cleveland, getting any sort of national attention on this team will be tough.
3) The Cavs are shooting trees much more consistently and it’s a big relief. They shot 37.5% on 9-24 from beyond the arc. A big chunk of that was from Jordan Clarkson who went 4-9 from deep. None of it was from Collin Sexton who still insists on dribbling inside the three point arc whenever he gets the chance. He was 0-3 from distance and struggled to find any sort of offense that wasn’t settling. Sexton finished the night with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal, which makes his game look better than it was.
We knew going in that the ominous music was playing and we were all loading into a jeep that was destined to get pushed off the edge of a cliff in the rain. Fortunately, Cleveland was able to compete enough to not end up like the cow that was dropped in the Raptor pen for a gentle feeding…
The Cavaliers next face off against the Bulls on Sunday. As always, Go Cavs!