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Five thoughts on last night: Raptors 117, Cavaliers 97

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Toronto closed out the year with a win over their one-time nemesis, which made an otherwise boring game rather satisfying.

Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 117, Cleveland Cavaliers 97, Fred VanVleet Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

I don’t suppose anything will ever top what the Toronto Raptors did in 2019, will it? We’ve all got so many amazing memories of everything the team accomplished.

Last night, unfortunately, was neither amazing nor memorable, but it was a win, and that’s all that matters. Let’s get to the thoughts and that get ready for stiffer competition later in the week.

Catharsis

Can you think of a better way to close out 2019, our Championship year, than by beating the Cavs, who tormented us for so much of the decade? It’s not the same Cavs team of course, but it doesn’t matter. Those jerseys have too many bad memories assorted with them.

(It doesn’t help that I’ve been watching those NBA “best of decade” videos the past couple days, and LeBron James’ 2018 Game 3 game-winner keeps showing up. Burn the tape!)

Anyway, that decade is behind us, so it’s time to move past that trauma. Wins like last night help with that.

Starter Switcharoo

I don’t think starting Rondae Hollis-Jefferson over OG Anunoby is a good decision in the macro sense, but in the micro sense, I like it. I think about it this way: Earlier in the year, twice in fact, Nick Nurse called out Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for lack of effort and poor play. OG Anunoby hasn’t been playing that well lately, so the move perhaps sends a similar message, or at least lets the team know that it’s not just the new guys or the second unit guys that will have their roles adjusted if they’re not playing well.

It’s also, I think, part of Nick Nurse’s ethos. He’s said many times he likes to switch up lineups in the regular season so everyone gets a taste of different roles in case a playoff matchup demands a change.

Anunoby certainly responded well enough to the change, dropping in 12 points (including 2-of-3 shooting from downtown) and grabbing seven boards. He also finished +13 on the night, second on the team behind Kyle Lowry.

Freddy, Where Art Thy Shot...?

Fred VanVleet has struggled with his shot since coming back from his knee injury. He’s shooting just 36% over this seven-game stretch, with a true shooting percentage of .471.

He’s shot better from down the past three games (11-for-25 in the last three, compared to 5-for-24 the previous four) but the Raptors need him to shake off that rust and get back to his dead-eye self if they want to start beating good teams.

Hot-shooting TDII

VanVleet might be cold, but Terence Davis is red-hot, folks. He made that blunder on Sunday, not fouling in the final 20 seconds, but he certainly didn’t let it bother him: he tied his career high with 19 points last night.

He’s shooting .52% from the floor over the past seven, including 14-31 from downtown. He’s jumped up to 41.2% on the season, best on the team among players with more than 30 attempts (Matt Thomas is shooting 53% but on only 26 attempts; Davis is up to 102).

He’s the only Raptor to play in every game so far this season. He also did this last night:

Once more for the people in the back: How did this guy not get drafted again?!

Show ‘Em All

Last year, the Raptors were 27-11 as the new year dawned. We were all happy about this, a little concerned about “load management,” but the team was about where we expected it and we were starting to wonder if, maybe, hopefully, the team had a title shot.

This year they’re 23-11, and defying pre-season expectations — at least those of the experts, if not the fans. I’ll admit I didn’t think their record would be quite this good — I would have guessed 20-14, maybe. But I did think they’d be in fourth place, which is exactly where they are — I just didn’t expect Miami and Indiana to be as good as they are.

I still need to see the Raptors beat a couple more good teams. But closing out the year with that record... I don’t think I could be much happier as a Raptors fan as 2020 begins.

(Although better team health in 2020 would, indeed, make me happier...!)

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As 2020 begins, a quick shoutout to everyone who reads and follows our work here at Raptors HQ, especially those that take the time to comment. Thank you for your support! The Raptors HQ team appreciates you all.