Sometimes the wins come easily, other times they are a struggle. Last night in Cleveland was of the latter class for the Toronto Raptors. Their top 3-point shooter, Kyle Lowry, had a woeful night, missing all 9 tries. Their inside game they left outside. Yet swingmen DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross combined for 52 points, the defense was sharp, and Toronto came alive in the fourth quarter to grab a gratifying win.
Toronto started the first half cold, and ended it that way. The last few minutes of Q2 were particularly galling, quite apart from the flurry of missed shots. Terrence Ross occasionally forgets he’s in the NBA, where the players are really good. His penchant for careless turnovers caught up with him twice in under 30 seconds, as he was stripped while dribbling, then made a blind pass which was picked off by the veteran Luol Deng. [20-second timeout: It's plays like that which remind us of the fact he played his college ball at Washington, which is not a major program. I suspect if he had competed regularly against Duke, Syracuse, or North Carolina, he would be more cognizant of protecting the ball against tough defenders. He could no doubt play casually against most of the defenses he saw during his 2 college seasons, but he can't do that in the pros.]
The Cavs went 6+ minutes without a field goal, yet the Raps couldn’t run away and hide because Kyle kept missing his trademark shots. DeMar DeRozan was able to hit his midrange jumpers with consistency, and Greivis Vasquez came off the bench to outscore Kyle. However, the Raps were getting no help from the front court, save Tyler Hansbrough. He was fouled twice under the offensive glass, a sure sign that his aggressiveness was causing the Cavs to boil over.
Toronto’s cold spell continued into Q3, during which a 14-point lead became a one-point deficit, and the dogfight was on. The Cavs carried their tiny lead into Q4, but could not sustain their offense in the last 3 minutes. TRoss’ 3-ball gave the Raps a lead they would not relinquish. A barrage of foul shots capped the win.
Jonas Valanciunas was on a short leash, and lost many minutes to the more defensively committed Amir Johnson. Kyle’s donut from outside was his only problem, as he dished 9 assists without a turnover, and hit all 7 of his free throws. TRoss’ 5 of 8 from downtown was most welcome. His defense on Kyrie Irving wasn’t as stifling as before, but that’s a hard man to keep off the scoresheet.
The Raps are home on Thursday against the Washington Wizards.