The hottest team in the NBA came into Scotiabank Arena and left a cavalier disregard for the Saturday night home crowd.
Cleveland continued its scorching hot play in 2024 by winning its 9th straight game and 17th of 18. All five starters, plus three reserves scored in double figures as the Cavs routed the retooling Raptors, 119-95. Evan Mobley (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Jarrett Allen (18 points, 15 rebounds) each collected double-doubles. Caris LeVert and Georges Niang shot a combined 11-for-14, as each contributed 13 points off the bench.
Toronto was led by Scottie Barnes, who collected his fourth career triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. He’s also the first in franchise history to record three 20-point triple-doubles in the same season. As tough as it will be to watch the losses pile up, Scottie’s continued growth should be a beacon of hope. In a game where the Raptors trailed by double-digits for almost three full quarters, Barnes still managed to be the only Raptor with a positive plus/minus (+1).
Before the game, both coaches pointed to the Cavaliers’ defense as the catalyst behind Cleveland’s recent success. They’ve had the league’s #1 defense over the last two weeks and only trail the Minnesota Timberwolves in defense for the season.
After shooting a blistering 54% in the first quarter against Houston and scoring 34 points the previous night, Toronto was held to 39% shooting and 24 points in the first frame against Cleveland. The Cavaliers outscored the Raptors 18-8 in the paint.
Barnes started the game with the extra fire he normally displays when facing Evan Mobley. The All-Star Forward (oohh that felt good to type) had his fingerprints all over the first quarter. He drove right at Cleveland’s twin towers for an early bucket, then relocated for a corner three, followed by a sneaky cut. After a timeout, Barnes found Gary Trent Jr. open in the corner for a three, and capped a crowd-energizing run with a putback slam.
Scottie was responsible for 12 of Toronto’s first 16 points. All told he finished the first half with a team-high 20 points — the second time this season he’s scored as much over the first two quarters.
Unfortunately for Toronto, nobody else stepped up. The rest of the Raptors starters scored a combined 16 points in the first half.
The entire first half was a clinic by the Cavaliers on why they’re the hottest team in the league. Drive-and-kicks led to open threes. Pick-and-rolls led to open layups. Cleveland outscored Toronto 34-18 in the paint while the Cavaliers’ bench outscored the Raptors 21-11. The only bright spot came from Gradey Dick.
Gradey Dick was 2-for-3 from three in the first quarter & has made multiple threes in 4 straight.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) February 11, 2024
Dick came into tonight's game shooting 43.2% from three in his previous 11 games. pic.twitter.com/r31z5vXP08
Cleveland opened the second quarter on an 18-4 run. They scored on their first eight possessions, growing the lead to 51-28. It was quite.....the Cavalanche!
At LEAST 1 Cavalanche per game.— NBA University (@NBA_University) February 11, 2024
Cleveland just blowing teams out right now it’s insane. It’s most certainly not a “they’re better without Mobley/Garland” thing. They’re just good.
The Raptors came out of the break and emptied the proverbial clip. RJ Barrett, who was questionable heading into this game with knee swellness, attacked the basket for a pair of buckets. Toronto’s fastbreak capitalized on the few opportunities that presented themselves. Still, Toronto was only able to get the deficit down to 77-63. The Raptors would never get closer.
Toronto had no answer for Cleveland’s big frontcourt. The Cavaliers amassed 14 offensive rebounds on 44 misses. Their 42.1% clip is in the 96th percentile for offensive rebounding percentage.
Newly acquired players, Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji, made their Raptors’ debuts. Olynyk instantly showed his craftiness on the offensive end (as well as his defensive limitations), as he finished with an impressive 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block. Agbaji missed all five of his three-point attempts, finishing with 8 points and 2 rebounds.
Ochai's first bucket as a Raptor pic.twitter.com/m4uHbctbfg— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 11, 2024
Cleveland outscored Toronto in every quarter, with its biggest lead at 25 points. The final margin could have been worse as the Cavaliers shot 3 of 17 from corner threes — typically the easiest three to make.
After having arguably his best game as a Raptor the night before, Immanuel Quickley had a very quiet 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting. In the same manner, RJ Barrett followed an uber-efficient shooting night with a poor one tonight. He finished with 14 points on 5 of 14 shooting (0 for 2 from three) and 4 of 7 from the free throw line.
Since these teams last played each other on January 1st — a 124-121 Toronto victory in Barrett and Quickley’s first game as Raptors — Cleveland had won 8 straight, lost one game to Milwaukee, then won another 8 straight (9 after this game).
Toronto entered this game on a season-high tying 2-game win streak. In the previous three instances, Toronto attempted to win
a pizza party a third in a row, they’d lost to Portland, Sacramento, and.......Cleveland.
The Raptors fall to 0-6 on games played on Saturday. They’ll look to bounce back on Monday when they welcome the San Antonio Spurs. For fans in attendance, it’ll be the only chance to see the rookie phenom, Victor Wembanyama. For pro-tanking fans, it’ll be another reminder of the top-6 protected pick the Raptors owe the Spurs in the upcoming draft.