The Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors had a chance to sweep the season series from the lottery bound Cavaliers, but instead, they decided to take the first 28 minutes of the game off and Cleveland waltzed their way through the visitor’s early lackadaisical defense for a 102-100 victory.
“The game was decided (by) the way we approached the game in the first quarter,” said Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey.
The Cavaliers protected the paint and played physical defense to start the game and the Raptors couldn’t hit their shots. Poor offense led to worse defense and Cleveland took control early.
“Guys were waltzing into the lane, into the paint and not being touched,” Casey said. “Just that lackadaisical defensive approach and I think it translated from the offensive end when we didn’t see shots go in – it translated over to our defense and there was none.”
The Raptors shot 29.2 percent from the field in the first quarter while the Cavaliers were hitting over 50 percent of their shots to take a 26-17 lead, but things were only going to get worse for Toronto from here. The visitors gave up 33 more points in the second quarter on 66.7 percent from the field and 4 minutes into the second half, the home team had a 21 point lead that proved to be more than Toronto could handle.
“We felt like we could come in and not give the same intensity, the same effort,” Casey said. “You spot a team 21 points and you are not going to win that way in this league.”
Toronto turned it on over the final 20 minutes to outscore the Cavaliers 47-28 and even briefly took a 1 point lead late in the game, forced a turnover with just seconds left and had a potential game-tying drive to the basket in the dying seconds, but they didn’t deserve a victory. Coasting for the first 28 minutes cost Toronto a very winnable game.
Through three quarters, the Cavaliers shot 58.2 percent from the field and out rebounded Toronto 37-23. Cleveland was full measure for their lead heading into the final quarter. The Raptors continued their comeback in the fourth quarter, but defenses tightened and both teams were held under 27 percent shooting from the field. If Toronto could have hit their free throws at any point during this game it was theirs, but they missed 4 free throws in the fourth quarter and 10 in the game. The Raptors put themselves in a position to lose and they lost.
Dion Waiters led the Cavaliers with 24 points on 10-19 shooting and Luol Deng contributed 19 points. Tristan Thompson played 27 energy filled minutes to record 15 points and a game high 13 rebounds. Six players scored in double figures for Cleveland.
Kyle Lowry, who kept making unexplained runs back to the Raptors locker room after clutching at his stomach, led Toronto with 22 points, 5 rebounds and 10 assists. Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross had 16 points each. DeMar DeRozan uncharacteristically shot 5-16 from the field for 13 points and 3-7 from the free throw line that included 2 missed free throws in the fourth quarter. DeRozan has been a big fourth quarter contributor recently, but not in this game.
Amir Johnson recorded 2 blocked shots to pass Vince Carter’s 415 blocks and take second place all-time with the Raptors at 416. Chris Bosh holds the Raptors record at 600.
The Raptors go to Boston for a game on Wednesday and the Cavaliers head to Detroit.
A Toronto Raptors Road Record Is In Sight
The table is set for Casey and the Raptors to have a winning record on the road. Toronto did their heavy lifting earlier in the season and has one of the softest road schedules possible left, starting on Tuesday night in Cleveland against the 27-44 Cavaliers. In their 7 road games remaining, only the Miami HEAT has a winning record as of March 24. Boston (23-47), Orlando (19-52), Milwaukee (13-58), Detroit (26-44) and the Knicks (29-41) should all be considered winnable games for the 39-30 Raptors.