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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers

Toronto’s comeback falls short, Raptors lose to Cavs 104-96

The Raptors gave us another entertaining fake comeback, but the result was still the same.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Despite having a solid defensive output against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors continued their recent offensive slump, and a late rally fell short, resulting in a 104-96 loss.

Toronto’s offense was non-existent in several stretches throughout the game, and the team failed to capitalize on a defensive masterclass in the third quarter, as they lost steam after cutting the lead to 1. That allowed the Cavs to rebuild the lead again, up to as much as 18 points early in the fourth quarter. The Raptors went on another run late in the fourth period, cutting the lead to five, but failed to get any closer.

Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 24 points and four assists but had a tough time inside the paint. Rookie Scottie Barnes went toe-to-toe with his counterpart, Evan Mobley, and Barnes finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, and three steals. Chris Boucher started in place of Malachi Flynn, and he added 21 points, seven rebounds, and three steals.

Lauri Markannen led the Cavs with 22 points and 12 rebounds, with 18 of his points coming in the first half. Rookie phenom Evan Mobley had 20 points, and a career-high 17 rebounds, and Darius Garland chipped in 17 points, 10 assists, and seven turnovers. Jarrett Allen left the game early due to a left quad contusion.

The game was par for the course for the Raptors of late. They held the Cavs to 40.5% shooting in the second half while forcing them to 17 turnovers the entire game, a +10 advantage. However, it was their offense that faltered several times tonight. With Pascal Siakam as the only credible offensive threat, the Cavs had the right personnel to wall off the paint and make it miserable for him. That he often had to start his drive from the perimeter gave help defenders time to get in his way while showing no respect to Siakam’s teammates around the perimeter. Siakam’s 8-for-22 shooting was not because he was terrible; it’s more of a byproduct of how bad his teammates were. I mean, you just can’t have a stretch like this:

To make the matter worse, the Raptors shot 16-for-26 from the free throw line on a game where they badly needed every single point. Siakam was the main culprit, going for 7-for-13 tonight. The Raptors also shot 6-for-24 from behind the arc, with half of the makes coming from Boucher.

Tonight’s game showed us the difference between these two teams’ depth. The Cavs had Cedi Osman and Kevin Love combining for 32 points, as the Cavs’ bench outscored their counterparts, 37-8. Precious Achiuwa started off great, scoring eight points, but we got the full “Precious Achiuwa Experience” as the game progressed. Dalano Banton, Thaddeus Young, Svi Mykhailiuk combined for a dubious 0-10 shooting. None of them looked shot-ready and capable of finishing plays off their teammates’ passes. Worse, they couldn’t even exploit a mismatch when it presents itself.

With Fred VanVleet and Malachi Flynn out, Scottie Barnes played the point, with Pascal Siakam as the secondary ballhandler. The Raptors’ defensive intensity started high for this game, forcing two Cavs turnovers from the get-go. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to convert on those opportunities. The Raptors used their length to take an early advantage on the offensive boards, and with Gary Trent Jr hitting a middy, it looked like the Raptors were off to a good start.

Unfortunately, it was hard to stay in front of Darius Garland, and he repeatedly collapsed the Raptors defense, finding open teammates like Jarret Allen for a dunk, which forced coach Nick Nurse to call a timeout. Trent Jr. finally made a three-pointer, but the Cavs’ length and zone defense bothered the Raptors. The Cavs’ bench tried to pull ahead, but Precious Achiuwa stood in their way, too crafty in getting to the basket on one end and stopping Allen on the other. The Cavs went on a quick 5-0 run to put them ahead 30-25 late in the first quarter, but Achiuwa was on seek-and-destroy mode, catching a contested lob for a dunk, and a putback off his own miss, and we ended the quarter with the Cavs leading, 30-29.

The Cavs opened with back-to-back three-pointers from Kevin Love and Cedi Osman, sparking a 13-2 run that forced coach Nurse to call a timeout. Siakam kept the Raptors in the game, sparking an 8-2 run, forcing coach JB Bickerstaff to call a timeout. The Cavs got an instant return, as they forced a pick-six off a Raptors’ turnover. Thanks to the Cavs’ defense, the Raptors’ offense got ugly for the rest of the half, but a lot of it was self-inflicted. If not for the penalty situation, it would have been a bigger deficit than the 59-46 score at the half.

The Raptors opened with a 13-2 run to start the second half cutting the Cavs lead to 61-59. Did we see a glimpse of the future? Barnes’s fingerprints were all over the floor as he took over defensively while getting his teammates easy baskets leading the charge for the Raptors. The Raptors had several opportunities to take the lead, as the Cavs went cold from behind the arc.

Unfortunately, the Raptors couldn’t convert from the perimeter, nor at the free-throw line, and the Cavs eventually got their bearings back, pushing the lead to 70-62 off a Garland-Mobley alley-oop and a Garland pull-up from deep. We were treated to a rare Mykhailiuk sighting and he promptly missed a corner three, putting the Raptors at 0-5 from the perimeter in the quarter and 2-for-16 overall.

After the Raptors’ timeout, it felt like I was watching Stranger Things. Everything is upside down — Mykhailiuk backed down Garland to collapse the Cavs defense to get a wide-open Banton from the perimeter — which he promptly air-balled, and Mykhailiuk went for a drive and kick the next play. Things returned to normal the next possession, with Mykhailiuk on the receiving end of a kick-out, and guess what? It bricked. If not for the Raptors’ chaotic defense, this would have been a blowout early, as the Raptors failed to score a single point since Siakam made split his free throws less than five minutes into the quarter. Thank god the quarter was over, but the Raptors trailed the Cavs, 73-62.

Nick Nurse looked ready to throw everything to the wall and see what sticks, and we saw Armoni Brooks’ Raptors debut in the fourth. However, Mobley sparked a 9-2 Cavs run to start the quarter, giving them their biggest lead at 82-64. Siakam tried to get Toronto back in the game, putting up five quick points — including a three-pointer, but he wasn’t getting a lot of help. Halfway through the quarter, the Raptors managed to find the bottom of the net often enough — Trent Jr. got a middy and a three-pointer. Meanwhile, Barnes was able to set up Boucher for a corner three. The Raptors cut the lead to five late in the game via Trent Jr’s three-pointer. Unfortunately, the Raptors stepped on a rake and hit their face in the process as Trent Jr’s aggressive defense sent Garland to the line, and turned the ball over on the next possession, essentially ending their night with a loss.

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