10 things I saw from Raptors-Cavaliers (Jan. 11)

  1. Domination: A shorthanded Raptors team without two of their best players in Kyle Lowry (injury) and Serge Ibaka (suspension) took on a fully loaded Cavaliers team and dismantled them on national TV. The Cavs were obviously playing below their capabilities but that doesn’t detract from an incredible performance by the Raptors.
  2. Leadership: With his co-stars out of action, DeMar DeRozan could have easily tried to take over as he did in his previous two games (59 shots). The Cavs anticipated this and sent double teams at him all night, but DeRozan did a great job of passing out of the traps and trusting his teammates to make a play, and they delivered. DeRozan had 8 of the Raptors’ 31 assists on the night and he deserves credit for a handful of hockey assists as well. That’s the culture change in a nutshell.
  3. Doppelganger: Fred VanVleet did his best Lowry impersonation with a career performance off the bench. FVV hit 8–11 with 6 threes, many of which extended the lead in the second quarter where the Raptors obliterated the Cavs by a score of 35–16. FVV was confident in every move he made, whether it was finishing over soft interior defenders or pulling up from three in transition. He even cuddled up to DeRozan on the bench. He’s really Lowry without the booty.
  4. Monster: Jonas Valanciunas came up huge to make up for Ibaka’s absence. Jonas was decisive when he caught passes in space and went straight for the rim. He also used his size advantage to snag a Herculean 18 rebounds in 19 minutes. Some weak calls limited his minutes but he played his role beautifully.
  5. Revival: This game is exactly what Norman Powell needed for his rapidly deteriorating confidence. Powell was shaky to start, but he rounded into form beautifully from the second quarter onward as he drilled catch-and-shoot threes, drove it against a rotating defense, locked up bigger players in Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade, while also staying within the flow of the offense.
  6. Activity: The combination of Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl was super effective against the backdrop of Cleveland’s lifeless effort. Poeltl was tremendous in sending help at the rim, including one ridiculous chasedown block on Jeff Green, while Siakam was just everywhere. He stopped LeBron on an drive, dunked it on Love, crossed up Kyle Korver for no reason at all, and showed zero fear.
  7. Guts: OG Anunoby held his own against LeBron, which is ridiculous for anyone, let alone a rookie. OG contained LeBron enough to not need a double team, which helped the Raptors shut down Cleveland’s deadly 3-point barrage. No double on LeBron means everyone can stay home on their man.
  8. Confidence: It was refreshing to see the Raptors show zero fear and take the game right to the Cavs. That just never happens. It’s especially encouraging that it was the young guys leading the charge. I’m not sure if they’re just too inexperienced to know better, but they jumped all over their veteran counterparts.
  9. Miscellaneous: Delon Wright’s defense on Isaiah Thomas (2–15) was incredible … CJ Miles got the start and punished the Cavs for doubling DeRozan … Lorenzo Brown was great in not allowing any space for Korver to shoot.
  10. This game was great advertisement for Pick 6ix. Go to Drake’s new restaurant because he made all this possible. Cavs looked hungover as shit.