In an 82-game season, there are going to be some absolute stinkers. The Toronto Raptors have had their share of games this season that have been ready to file in the stinker column, only to be revived by five minutes of zone defence, a Kyle Lowry avalanche of energy, or Kawhi Leonard doing superhuman things.
Tonight, they never got their revival. The Raptors were bad early, bad in the middle, and bad late — suffering a season’s worst loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, 126-101.
the cavs once again embarrass the raptors in their final meeting of the season— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) March 12, 2019
Key to the Raptors loss were issues with turnovers and finishing possessions with rebounds. Toronto committed 20 turnovers to the Cavs’ 12, mostly due to a low give-a-shit meter.
When running out in transition, the Raptors ran into no fewer than four set bodies — resulting in charge calls. When trying to make pocket passes, there was no zip on the ball, resulting in the basketball somewhere in a mess of ankles. Every aspect of the game was just missing that oomph of “this game matters to us”.
On the boards, the Raptors were lethargic on the weak side. Serge Ibaka especially struggled with the energy of Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Marquese Chriss — so much so that when Chriss decided to talk some trash to him, he got up and calmly grabbed Chriss by the throat, dragged him into the stanchion, and punched him a couple times for good measure.
Ibaka and Chriss out here throwing punches pic.twitter.com/NwRhL6Apw4— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 12, 2019
So yeah, Ibaka might get suspended.
On the other side, the Cavaliers had a good night shooting the ball from outside. As a team, they made 18 three-pointers, with Kevin Love and Jordan Clarkson making three and Collin Sexton making four. Sexton would lead all scorers with 28 points.
The Raptors, meanwhile, got a nice game from Kawhi but not much else. Leonard had a team-high 25 points on 11-for-19 shooting, adding nine rebounds and two assists. Pascal Siakam had 15 points, but struggled with his outside shot (0-for-4) and his control in transition. Kevin Love was a smart foil for Siakam in this one, setting up for charges and controlling space to force Pascal into some uncomfortable plays.
Elsewhere on the roster, though, the Raptors were looking for help. Marc Gasol started but scored just two points, as the team spent next to no time looking for him in offensive sets. Instead, it was the same old stuff the Raptors fall into when they’re struggling — Norm Powell driving into traffic, strong side isolations without a pick set, some uninspired cutting late in the clock. Apart from Kyle Lowry’s 14, nobody else for the Raptors scored in double digits. That says a lot.
Cleveland was up from the get-go. Jumping out to a 10-4 lead, the Raptors responded with a pair of triples from Lowry and Leonard, forcing the first timeout of the game. Cleveland answered with an 8-0 run of their own, as they built a lead they wouldn’t give up for the rest of the game.
A nice energy stretch from OG Anunoby kept the Raptors within striking distance, as a steal and a block led to a couple runout opportunities. Toronto wasn’t able to get an extended run going, though, as the Cavaliers went up 31-26 early in the second.
Late in the first half, both Danny Green and Serge Ibaka went down uncomfortably on the same play, with Green clutching at his ankle for a moment before walking it off. Green would play just 20 minutes in this one and may be someone to monitor over the next few days. Later in the game, Kyle Lowry would similarly go down with a twisted ankle — showing that the cost of a bad game might go a bit further than just tonight.
In the end, it was a bit formulaic. The Raptors did one or two good things, but never sustained. The Cavaliers would hit a big three to keep them at bay. In the fourth, they broke it open, giving the game its final score.
Next up for Toronto are the Los Angeles Lakers, who come to town on Thursday night.