14 886 (It looked like a lot less than that) fans ventured to the Air Canada Centre for this meeting between two teams with a combined record of 37-117. And really, when you hear numbers like that, you can’t blame fans for not scooping up tickets.
For those who did show up, they were “treated” to an excruciatingly painful basketball game. Just as there was no energy emanating from the stands, there was even less to go around on the depleted Raptors’ bench.
The Raps got off to a sluggish start for the second night in a row, and allowed the dismal Cavs to open the ball game with a big run and build confidence.
Reggie Evans was the only Raptor who seemed to know what the hell he was doing on the floor in the first half. To emphasize how horrible Toronto was in the first 24 minutes, consider that Reggie scored 10 of the team’s first 30 points.
To make matters worse, the Raptors, as usual, showed no signs of concern for the defensive end of the court. It showed in the fact that the offensively anaemic Cavs, who average just 95 points per game, had put up 60 in the first half on 60 per cent shooting and were up 20.
The ACC faithful made the young Raptors aware of their displeasure, sending the Raps to the locker room with a serenade of boos, and rightfully so.
The third quarter looked like an extension of the opening half at first, but the Raptors began to make their own run towards the end of the quarter, and a hard, flagrant foul committed on Joey Graham, by James Johnson, seemed to create a spark around the arena.
The little run had the deficit down to 13 going into the fourth quarter.
Alexis Ajinca, yes, Alexis Ajinca, DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless continued to power the Raptors’ rally in the fourth quarter, and a Sonny Weems’ three-pointer had the suddenly cold-shooting Cavs’ lead down to five.
The game went back and forth between five and 10 points after that, and despite the fact that Bayless was keeping the Raptors alive, the 22-point hole they had dug themselves proved to be too much, as did Baron Davis’ clutch shooting down the stretch.
I’d love to say it was a valiant effort from the young Raptors, or that their comeback attempt was admirable, but the truth is that a quarter-and-a-half of good, tough basketball does not excuse their piss-poor performance through two-and-a-half quarters.
There shouldn’t be many positives to discuss after a loss to Cleveland, but there were a few bright spots for the Raptors. Reggie Evans finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes, DeMar DeRozan came on in the second half to finish with 19 points and Sonny Weems finished with 17 points on just 10 shots.
But the real shining presence for the Raptors of late continues to be the emergence of Jerryd Bayless as a very capable point guard. After being sent back to the bench to accomodate Jose Calderon, Bayless still had another solid game.
If this season truly was supposed to be about youth development and an eye to the future, then one has to question why Bayless wasn’t given the start tonight with Jose coming back after an injury. The choice for the final four games should be simple: Bayless should get the nod.
Now there are those that actually claim to cheer against the Raptors right now, in order to attain a higher probability of winning the lottery. Believe me, I understand this thinking to a certain extent, but the way I see it, a home loss to a team like the Cavs undoes everything that a young team can gain from impressive wins, like the recent W’s over the Thunder, Bulls and Magic.
Speaking of the lottery situation, the Raptors (at 21-57) now sit in a tie with the Wizards for the 28th and 27th spots overall. That would mean the Raptors would most likely receive the third or fourth pick in the draft. Unless something drastic changes in the final week of the season, that’s exactly where the Raps should finish up.
If you were wondering why Amir Johnson suddenly joined the walking wounded tonight, it’s because Amir sustained an ankle injury during the pre-game warmup.
Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 30 Min, 28 Pts, 10-18 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 6-8 FT, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl
Cavaliers Player of the Game: J.J. Hickson – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 9-17 FG, 10-14 FT, 10 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk
Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 27 Min, 4 Pts, 0-7 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 1 Reb, 9 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO (I could have easily given this title to Ed Davis tonight as well)