Game Notes: Cavs at Raptors
Close but no Turk.
by Tariq Sbiet
Fresh off a Celtic mangling, the Cavs found themselves in the Air Canada Centre getting more than they bargained for. Right from the get go, the Raps knew what they had to do to squeak out a W.
“We have to pay attention to LeBron. He is the star of the team, and everything starts from him,” said Marco Bellinelli.
Marco hit it right on the nose! Everything started and ended with King James as he posted 36 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists on 10-17 shooting, just above average for LBJ.
Both teams came out blistering hot with the Raptors shooting 61 percent and Cleveland 72 percent in the first quarter.
For the Cavs, newcomer Antawn Jamison and LeBron did most of the damage, scoring 21 of the team’s 33 in the Q. But things didn’t come easy for James as he was getting banged up throughout the game.
Coach Mike Brown was clearly concerned about James’ health, but made it clear the same concern is shared throughout the locker room.
“Whether it’s LeBron or anybody on my team and they go down, yes, [I get worried] you don’t want any of your guys getting hurt, so yea I was concerned, but I would’ve been just as concerned if it was Leon Powe, Jawad Williams or Shaquille O’Neal. I wouldn’t want any of our guys getting hurt.”
Three minutes into the quarter, cheers from the Toronto faithful erupted in the ACC as James hit the deck hard, and was down for about a minute. To have the Cavs star out of play would only have evened things up as Chris Bosh was out due to his ankle injury. (Yeah, I know Shaq is out too, but that’s a positive for the Cavaliers) This could’ve been their only chance to get the W, but you gotta remember Bron is not human, therefore he doesn’t feel pain. So up he went.
For the Raptors, Andrea Bargnani and Jarret Jack (both 4-6 from the field) carried the load with 10 and 9 in the first, 24 points each for the game.
Unusual suspect, Reggie Evans, had 7 in the first Q and 13 points for the game, as he was demanding the ball in the paint and being assertive offensively.
He might’ve been upset due to me interrupting his pre-game appetizer (banana) to sneak in a few questions. That’s just my hunch though.
After trailing by as many as 12, the Raptors clawed back within 3 at the end of the first: 33-30 Cavs.
Reggie continued his productivity on both ends of the floor. Whether it was getting to the line, drawing charges, or hustling for loose balls, Evans provided a much needed boost for his team in order to remain within striking distance.
“You gotta give Reggie Evans credit, he came in and did what he does, he brought energy to the team and he brought toughness,” said Coach Mike Brown.
Meanwhile, the owners of the best record in the league (46-14) were displaying their fluent offense by picking apart the defense with skip passes for open threes, crisp passes on cuts, (Andy Varejao) and then we had LeBron being LeBron, of course.
But Toronto had some great play off the bench, particularly Sonny Weems who scored 7 of his 11 in the 2nd Quarter.
Each time Cleveland would make a mini-run, T.dot would answer and end off the first half fittingly, with Antoine Wright hitting a 3-ball to set up the stalemate: 60-60.
Jarret Jack opened up the third with his best Rajon Rondo impression as he carved up the defense to create for teammates or take it to the tin. Jack was very consistent, scoring 24 points on 8/14 from the field, including two triples.
But it was the Cavs all around team play that kept Toronto in check. A group effort trumped LeBron’s 2-point 3rd quarter performance. Partner in crime, Mo Williams decided to wake up in the second half, where he scored 16 of his 22 points. Williams also had a game-high six three pointers! (6-11)
While the Cavaliers hot shooting was still intact, the boys in red did a great job of cooling down the Raps to a measly 38 percent by clogging up the paint, and holding the dinos to only 22 points in the quarter.
When all the marbles are on the table and it’s time to shine, your star players are the ones who will, naturally. Unfortunately, for the Raptors, their star [Chris Bosh] could only watch helplessly from the sidelines and cheer on his team.
But the guy on the other team wasn’t bashful to hog the spotlight, scoring 14 points in the final frame (and overtime). Yea, I’m talking about the King.
Yet, as they did all game, Toronto continued to scrap their way right to the final minutes where their own “Mr. Clutch” Hedo Turkoglu did his thing.
Hedo did what HE-DO to tie it up at 107 with a shot from deep! On the following possession, the Raps got a stop and going the other way, a missed transition layup from Jack led to a put back jam by none other than Turkoglu, which actually captured the lead momentarily, 109-107.
After being fairly composed throughout the game, I have to admit, these two plays from Hedo got me out of my seat, screaming like a grade six school girl!
But we must not forget about “that guy” on the Cavaliers, which is what the Raps did as LBJ answered with a seemingly effortless lay up in traffic to tie it up again at 109.
Jarret Jack then draws contact on the next possession to make a visit to the free throw line, sinking two crucial free throws to once again capture the lead, 111-109.
Guess what happened next?
That’s right; LeBron answers with yet another effortless layup in traffic to continue the see-saw battle in Toronto, 111-111. (He’s still no Kobe, luckily for him the Raps forgot about defense on those last two possessions!)
With a chance for the Raptors to take the lead for good with a game winner, the ball is placed in the hands of a determined Turkish man. Hedo dribbles, dribbles and dribbles some more to hoist up a three and miss. This game is going to overtime!
With no Shaq and Anderson Varajao fouled out, it looked as if Cleveland’s back-back may be a factor in the overtime.
Well as we all know, looks can be deceiving. After solid shooting throughout the game, the Raptors went ice old in OT, scoring only 7 points in extra time.
With 6 unanswered from Mo Williams to open the final 5 minutes complimented with another 5 points from former Raptor, Anthony Parker, the game got out of reach for the Bosh-less Raptors and the Cavs had their way, winning 126-118.
Overall a solid effort from the Raptors, but they just came up short…too much star power for the Cavs. LeBron with 36, Jamison and Mo Williams with 22 a piece.
“I love the way we competed, our guys competed hard, they worked very hard and we are going to get better,” said Coach Jay Triano.
It was a close game throughout in all categories. The one area where Cleveland took advantage was in the open court, almost doubling the Raptors in fast break points, 30-16.
Anderson Varajao, who is usually the guy getting on others’ nerves, was frustrated in the fourth with some calls as he was eventually fouled out of the game.
“I was out, it was my sixth foul. But it’s going to happen, I’m a very emotional player and things like that are going to happen,” explained Varajao of his fourth quarter frustrations.
Varejao on the Raptors being without Bosh: “They have a good team. In the NBA it’s not easy to win on the road even though they don’t have their best player.”They did a good job of creating without [Bosh] It was a close game but the same way that we won, with a couple of shots, it could’ve went the other way around,” explained Anderson Varejao.