On the eve of the ALCS between the Blue Jays and the Indians, it seems only right that the Raptors and Cavaliers face off in a rematch (kind of) of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Don’t worry Blue Jay fans, judging by LeBron’s enthusiastic display of popcorn consumption on the sidelines, it doesn’t appear that he will be channeling his inner MJ and taking to the diamond — you’re good to go.
All jokes aside, the Raptors hadn’t played a game since last Wednesday against the Clippers, and it showed early on in this contest. Even with LeBron out of the lineup, the Cavaliers came out flying like it was Game 1 of the ECF all over again. Pushing the pace, the Cavs shot in ten seconds or less over four of their first five possessions and would start the game on a 17-6 run just three and a half minutes in.
Luckily for the Raptors, Kyle Lowry was there to steer the ship back onto its course, as a couple of quick three balls would help balance the score and reverse the momentum. The Raptors would take control of the game in the second quarter, going on a 16-4 run and winning the quarter by a total of 40-19.
Lowry would finish the game with 25 points in just 20 minutes of action. His backup Cory Joseph was no slouch himself, as he poured in 17 in 19 minutes. Patrick Patterson played just 13 minutes of action, but was essential in turning the tide for the Raptors in that second quarter, as he provided some solid defense as always and finished +19 on the night.
There was no looking back for the Dino’s after their explosive second quarter, as they were able to close the game out quite comfortably with a 119-94 final score. The Raptors would shoot 57 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three point land, taking advantage of coach Tyronn Lue’s long bench deployment on the night.
Come the fourth quarter, it was all rookies and youngsters on deck for the Raptors, as coach Dwane Casey sent out Fred VanVleet, Bruno Caboclo, Jakob Poeltl, Brady Heslip and E.J. Singler to bring the game home. Flashes of offensive promise were on display from guys like VanVleet and Poeltl. Though they only dropped eight and four points respectively, the two looked comfortable with the ball in their hands. Here are a few more things that the Raps displayed tonight:
Skinny Lowry is BACK
Lowry looked awesome tonight and put a lethargic looking Raptors team on his back in the opening half. As mentioned, Lowry dropped 25 points in just 20 minutes and he did it on 6-of-9 shooting. Six field goals you say? Yes, because Lowry was clutch from the charity stripe, going a perfect 10-of-10. Top it off with six assists and three triples for Lowry and it’s safe to say who the MVP was of this contest.
Jonas Valanciunas Led by Example
Valanciunas looked somewhat lost in the opening quarter and had Tristan Thompson and Chris Anderson jumping all over his back. However, after settling in a little bit, JV looked right at home and was able to take Tristan Thompson to school in the low-post. JV finished a perfect 5-of-5 with 10 points and 7 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action. Hopefully fellow bigs such as Lucas Nogueira and Pascal Siakam were inspired by JV’s stellar performance.
DeMarre Carroll Appeared to Have Two Kneecaps
Knock on wood, but DeMarre Carroll looked much more like his old self tonight. Carroll caused all sorts of hell for the Cleveland offense, buzzing all over the court and clogging every passing lane that he could. He finished the game with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists to go along with a game high 3 steals.
Raptors Defense was on point
The Raptors were able to demonstrate why they were a top defensive team last season with a stingy effort on their side of the court. Outside of the first ten minutes, the Raps were clearly the better team on the night and it all stemmed from the defensive end. Norman Powell and Joseph especially, gave Kyrie Irving problems all night, holding him to just 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting. In total, the Raptors held the Cavs to just 41 percent shooting, and also won the battle on the glass 39-33.
It may not count in the standings, but you always want to get the win — especially in the opponents building. I think it’s safe to say however, that the next time these two teams meet, it will be far more interesting and the stakes will be much higher. As for now, the Raptors will take their 2-2 pre-season record and host San Lorenzo de Almagro of Argentina at the Air Canada Centre tomorrow night.
What did you guys think of the game?