The Toronto Raptors failed to keep up with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pace and energy in the second half, making them look like they were the ones playing on a second game of a back-to-back. A late rally gave them a chance to force OT, but the Cavalier’s defense locked them up and prevented them from getting a chance to tie the game, giving the Raptors a 102-105 loss.
It was pretty even to start the game, as both coaches did a good job playing chess defensively. It was a series of mini-runs for either team over the first quarter and change until the Raptors switched gears in the second period, going on a 15-0 run while holding the Cavs scoreless for about five minutes. Unfortunately, the Cavs came out of the second half in a much higher gear, and all the Raptors could do was try their best to keep up, which was not enough to get a win tonight.
Jakob Poeltl had a stellar 18 points and 13 boards, shooting 8-for-9 from the field. Unfortunately, nobody else had it going down the stretch except Dennis Schroder. Pascal Siakam added 18 points, eight boards, and six dimes but coughed up the ball four times. Scottie Barnes had a quiet 15 points and eight boards.
Poeltl putting in work tonight— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 27, 2023
18 PTS & counting pic.twitter.com/0FW70pKHhv
Darius Garland paced the Cavs with 24 points and eight dimes but helped the Raptors with five turnovers. Max Strus came up big for the Cavs in the second half, dropping four three-pointers in the third period en route to 20 points, 11 boards, and five assists. O.G. Anunoby held Donovan Mitchell to 10 points on 17 shots, while Jarrett Allen mirrored Poeltl’s output with 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting.
Raptors shot 20-for-29 from the line tonight, the 9th time they've shot below 70% at the free throw line this season.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) November 27, 2023
That's the most such games by any team in the NBA this season.
The Raptors’ loss can easily be attributed to the nine missed freebies, but the Raptors finished the night with a +23 advantage in free-throw attempts. Sure, they have to hit their freebies, but there are bigger issues that cost them the game. The transition defense – whether off turnovers or misses- was atrocious, as the Cavs beat the Raptors with several cherry-picks, with 21-12 fast break points; the Cavs’ advantage doesn’t do enough justice to what we saw tonight. Siakam and Barnes struggled with the Cavs’ length and how they crowded either one once they got past the three-point line, and coach Rajakovic failed to get them good shots in the half court in the second half. It also doesn’t help that Schroder got into foul trouble in the third period, and Malachi Flynn’s stint with the starters was shaky at best.
Both teams found success in the paint early, but the Raptors got the initial upper hand as Schroder made his first three-point attempt, while the Cavs missed all three to start the game. However, the Cavs’ defense tightened up, going on a 7-0 run to take a 15-11 lead, forcing coach Rajakovic to call for time. Trent Jr. came in for Barnes, but the Cavs pushed their run to 11-0. Anunoby finally joined the fun, hitting a three-pointer to spark the Raptors’ own 7-0 run to cut the Cavs lead to one. Rajakovic showed a different transition lineup look with Siakam/Barnes/Achiuwa/Trent Jr./Flynn, and an oop from Precious to Siakam gave them a 26-23 lead. A block by Barnes on Caris Levert ensured that the quarter ended with the Raptors up 28-25.
The Raptors looked strong defensively to start the 2nd Q with an agent of chaos lineup and chaos they brought on both ends of the floor, extending their lead to seven. Unfortunately, chaos giveth and chaos taketh, as they allowed the Cavs to tie the game at 32, forcing coach Rajakovic to call another timeout. Garland’s back-to-back threes pushed their run to 13-0 and gave the Cavs a 38-32 lead before Barnes’ stepback trifecta broke the Cavs’ run. Poeltl’s tip gave the Raptors the lead back at 39-38. The Raptors’ pesky defense held the Cavs scoreless for four minutes, turning Barnes’ initial trifecta into a 15-0 run to give them a 47-38 lead, forcing coach Bickerstaff to call a timeout.
Gary’s transition perimeter three pushed their lead to 12 until Mitchell finally broke the dry spell for the Cavs by hitting his first bucket. Cavs doubled down on their interior defense, holding the Raptors scoreless over the last 80 seconds of the half, almost broken by Anunoby’s buzzer-beater trifecta. However, the ball was still on his fingertips when the buzzer sounded. Regardless, it was a solid second quarter for the Raptors, giving them a 52-42 lead at the half.
The Cavs opened up the second half banking on their defense to produce offense, as back-to-back cherry-picks by Strus forced coach Rajakovic to call for time 45 seconds in. The timeout didn’t yield an immediate result, as Anunoby was whistled for an offensive foul. It took Schroder’s layup to break the Cavs’ 6-0 run. Schroder picked up his fourth foul three minutes into the second half, which meant early Flynn minutes; he was promptly back doored by Strus and air-balled a three a couple of possessions later. Flynn had another try at the same corner three spots but got blocked. A possession later, Siakam got him the ball at the same spot, making the corner trifecta, giving the Raptors a ten-point lead. Siakam got called for tech for being demonstrative after not getting a call in transition. He has every right to be upset, as the referees have been swallowing their whistles when it comes to Siakam up until now. The Cavs’ 7-0 run cut the Raptors’ lead to two, but Trent Jr. broke that run with a middy. Strus’ back-to-back trifectas to tie the game at 67. The Cavs closed strong, behind Strus’ perimeter shooting, and took a 74-72 lead heading into the final frame.
Max Strus in the 3rd quarter:— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) November 27, 2023
20 PTS, 8/10 FG
Raptors in the 3rd quarter
20 PTS, 6/21 FG
The Cavs went on a quick 5-0 run to start the final frame, as the Raptors’ offense was all over the place, forcing another Raptors timeout a minute into the period. Poeltl’s layups got them going, but Mitchell found Niang wide-open around the perimeter, giving the Cavs an eight-point lead. The Cavs’ avalanche just kept coming, as Garland’s corner three gave the Cavs a 12-point lead, but Barnes’ efforts cut the Cavs’ lead to 91-85. Siakam found Poeltl for a layup to cut the lead to three, but Mitchell got away from Anunoby to take it back. Poeltl returned the favour and assisted Siakam in the paint, but the Raptors couldn’t get any closer.
Strus picked up an offensive rebound and hooked up with Allen to give the Cavs a five-point lead. At the same time, Barnes’ attempt in transition turned into a turnover as the referees continued to swallow their whistle. Schroder’s layup cut the lead to two, but Allen and Mobley linked up for an alley-oop the next play. Schroder grifted to the line and made both freebies, and it’s a two-point lead with just over a minute remaining. Garland’s alley-oop attempt to Allen went in without Allen’s help, while Siakam was able to follow up Poeltl’s blown layup. Garland ISO’d Barnes to give the Cavs a 103-99 lead with 20 seconds left. An excellent SLOB play by coach Darko, and they got Schroder a corner three to cut the lead to one with 15 seconds left. The Cavs got the ball, and Mitchell evaded Anunoby and ate precious seconds before Flynn sent him to the line with 9 seconds left, making both freebies to give the Cavs a 105-102 lead. The Raptors drew a play to get another three-pointer, but the Cavs were much prepared this time and forced Trent Jr. to turn the ball over, and that’s the game.