“Leastern Conference” jokes are old hat at this point, especially with how strong the East is at the top. But those top teams do still get to feast on a few really, really bad teams... such as the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Although the Toronto Raptors didn’t entirely run the Cavs out of the gym last night, they built a double-digit lead early and the outcome never seemed in doubt.
Like the Raptors on the break last night, let’s quickly run through some thoughts:
Pascal Siakam started off well against Brooklyn on Saturday, then kinda disappeared in the second half. Against The Cavs, he was excellent for all 48, especially in the fourth — with the Cavs hanging around, Siakam put the Raptors on his back and kept the Cavs at bay.
But... it’s the Cavs. Siakam’s issues of late have been playing at a high level against good defensive teams. When teams with long, strong, quick defenders lock in on him — Bam Adebayo, Jonathan Issac — Pascal has yet to find ways to consistently score.
It was great to see him look like early-season Pascal against the Cavs. Can he do it against good teams?
The Running Game
The Raptors were absolutely dominant in transition last night, scoring 29 fast-break-points, and turning 11 Cleveland turnovers into 18 points.
That’s something that’s been missing from the Raptors during their recent struggles — but that should be expected against the good teams in the league. Opponents like the Heat and Clippers take better care of the ball, and are better at transition D than the Cavs, and can take that aspect of the Raptors’ game away.
The question, then — as with Siakam’s play — can the Raptors find and take advantage of opportunities to get out and run against good teams?
(Regardless of the opponent though — these Raptors sure are fun when they lock down on defense and push the ball off turnovers, aren’t they?)
So, the McCaw Minutes (Redux)
I’m still a long ways away from joining the Patrick McCaw fan club, but even I will admit he looked like a quality NBA player last night. He hit two three pointers — the first without any hesitation! — and dished two assists in his 21 minutes. And his defense, surely his calling card point at this point, was solid; one of his deflections led to this:
This is what you love to see pic.twitter.com/iBQY9mmxDb— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 17, 2019
I’ll let my pal Josh Howe sum it up:
That entire sequence. McCaw with the strip, gets out ahead on the break, catches the long-bomb pass from Gasol, then dishes it himself behind-the-back to the streaking Powell for the one-handed hammer. Poetry in motion.— Joshua Howe (@Howevolution) December 17, 2019
Sounds about right!
Marc Gasol, Rounding into Form
Marc Gasol has been noticeably more aggressive on offense the past two games, and that’s been a delight to see. He’s even hitting shots inside the three-point line! He took nine shots last night, with six of them coming in the paint, and three of those — all makes — were traditional post-ups.
I was one of many who was hoping Gasol would look more like Memphis Gasol in Kawhi Leonard’s absence. It hasn’t happened, but maybe Gasol was still getting over his incredibly busy (and winning) summer?
marc gasol is slowly working past the world's longest hangover pic.twitter.com/dh3toOI1sf— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) December 17, 2019
Looks like a trend to me. He’ll be averaging 18 and 12 by playoff time!
OG Has No Time for Love
Plenty of Raptors highlights got me out of my seat last night, but OG Anunoby’s drive on Kevin Love this might’ve been my favourite:
I know Love isn’t an all-world defender out there. But still, seeing OG with that confidence to pull the ball out (and his teammates to clear out for him) and turn and take the Cavs big man off the dribble, and finish strong like that? You’ll excuse the pun... but you love to see it.
So far, the Raptors are taking care of business during this easy part of their schedule. Can they keep it going Wednesday against Dwane Casey in Detroit?