Up 10 points at halftime against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it sure looked like the Toronto Raptors were cruising their way to an easy victory. Nonetheless, the tides quickly changed in the Cavaliers' favor as Max Strus amassed 20 points in the third quarter, which is how much Toronto scored as a team.
To have one player outscore your entire team in a single quarter is completely atrocious, but it seems anything can happen when you have a sharpshooter who can light it up on your team. The Raptors, meanwhile, can't even score when Cleveland is giving away points.
Where the Raptors really fell short in this crushing loss to Cleveland was their poor shooting from the free-throw line. It seems as though something that gets preached at every level of basketball from beginner to the pros has escaped the Raptors this season.
In this game, the Raptors had the luxury of 29 free throw attempts as opposed to the Cavaliers' total of six. Despite the wide margin, the Toronto Raptors missed nine crucial free throws, which led to a 102-105 loss. If Masai Ujiri can't find one good free throw shooter (outside of Dennis Schroder at 87.5%), that's a concern.
The Toronto Raptors' free throws cost them a win against the Cavaliers
It was a breath of fresh air to see all five of the Raptors' starters scoring in double-digits, with Jakob Poeltl's dominant double-double leading the way. In spite of that, one player in particular proved to hurt the team again in a loss, as Gary Trent Jr. stepped out of bounds on a potential game-tying three in the closing seconds.
Sure, GTJ finished the game with 13 points, but that was on mediocre field goal and three-point shooting efficiency. To give him some credit, at least he shot 2-2 from the free throw line. Toronto currently ranks 28th in the league in free throw percentage, with the Knicks and champion Nuggets somehow being the only ones worse off in this area.
With the Raptors' complete lack of bench help and basic free throw execution, a lot of weight lies on players like Trent to make something happen. The room for error on their side is extremely limited, as it's really up to him to provide an offensive spark due to the team's inability to generate consistent offense and take easy points when given to them.
Strus' sudden burst of offense off the Cavs' bench shows how important it is to have a player of that archetype. Between lacking a player like that and their own poor execution, points might be hard to come by.