The Toronto Raptors have flirted with losing over the last couple weeks. Thought about it, took a little taste, and decided... no, not for us.
Once again on Wednesday night, they found themselves battling late against a scrappy underdog. This time, it was the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went on two separate 9-0 runs in the fourth quarter to liven up the crowd at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. Kevin Love was making shots all night, including six threes to get to 23 points. Cedi Osman made a couple big ones. There were moments of danger.
Yet again, though, the Raptors closed the deal and walked away victorious. A 115-109 win over the Cavs is their ninth straight, as they’re now two short of tying a franchise record streak and one win away from getting Nick Nurse a trip to Chicago as an All-Star Game head coach.
Give a lot of credit for this win to a man who punched his ticket to the United Center earlier in the evening: Kyle Lowry. The now-six-time All-Star looked the part all night long, especially with the absence of Marc Gasol due to a hamstring injury. Lowry made winning plays all over the court in what was, at times, a somewhat haggard-looking basketball game for the Raptors on both ends of the floor. He marked a +10 in one of those games where plus-minus doesn’t lie, scoring 23 points, grabbing five rebounds, and dealing five assists.
A beneficiary of Lowry’s work on the court was Serge Ibaka, who took on the Love assignment on one end and enjoyed a hot shooting evening on the other. Ibaka made 10-of-14 shots for a game-high 26 points, pouring in three triples opposite a guy who was doing just the same.
While Lowry and Ibaka forged a path, it was Norman Powell who shut the door. After a missed free throw by Darius Garland could’ve tied the game, Powell caught a kick out pass from Lowry on the other end and buried a three with 1:02 left. The next Cleveland trip down, Powell jumped a passing lane up high and finished the break with a dunk — putting the Raptors up six and all but sealing the win.
Give some credit to the Cavaliers, though, for sticking in this one. In the first half, the home team did an excellent job of taking advantage of a slight Raptors frontcourt by going at the rim. Chris Boucher was roundly great in this game — he finished 4-for-5 with 10 points off the bench — but the bigs on Cleveland could bully him a bit, as they would win the offensive rebounding margin 15-9 to get some easy buckets.
The Cavs backcourt was also good, but a little inefficient as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Garland and Collin Sexton combined for 39 points, but needed 33 shots to get there. There was also this memorable moment for the latter, who seemingly found himself on the wrong end of an unplugged Xbox controller.
Wonder if they know the Original man is 100% pure pic.twitter.com/9tdVrEISgk— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 31, 2020
Cleveland also got decent contributions off the bench from Kevin Porter Jr. and Larry Nance Jr., as the adult sons had 13 points a piece.
Though the game was close up until halftime, it appeared that the Raptors would finally break the game open in the third. With Lowry on the floor, Toronto went on an 11-0 run to finally earn a double digits lead.
That was answered in the fourth, though, with the aforementioned 9-0 runs by Cleveland keeping this interesting until late. The shot of Clutch Norm couldn’t come at a better time, as he had 16 points off a Nick Nurse bench that only stretched four deep in this game.
Next up for the Raptors is a date with the Pistons tomorrow night as they finish a quick road back-to-back.