Posted on April 3, 2018, by Travis Pulver
It hasn’t been the prettiest of seasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’ve had injury issues, personnel issues, and have simply played poor basketball on occasion. But they overhauled the roster and with people starting to get healthy. With the playoffs right around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better.
Just ask the Toronto Raptors about that.
Raptors fans may have hoped that their team could gain a slight advantage with Cavs head coach Ty Lue still not with the team and George Hill out. What they saw instead was a pretty complete effort by Cleveland’s starting five; an effort their team’s starting five couldn’t match.
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As usual, LeBron James led the way with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. No surprise, right? But what was a little unexpected was Jose Calderon shooting 7-11 from the floor and scoring 19. He also held Raptors guard Kyle Lowry to just five points (2-11 from the floor).
“I thought (Calderon) did a pretty good job on Lowry,” Cavs acting coach Larry Drew said after the game (ESPN). “Lowry is a tough guard and guys like him; you just try to make it tough for him. We know that they’re going to score, but we just try to make it tough for him. That’s all we ask Jose to do. I thought he did a really good job.”
Kevin Love chipped in a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Rodney Hood had 17 points and Jeff Green added 12.
“I think we’re jelling at the right time, especially when we get George back from injury,” Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood said after the game (ESPN). “We’re jelling at the right time.”
For a night, at least, they certainly appeared to do just that. While they were in control for much of the game, it still wasn’t an easy one.
Toronto got off to a quick start and jumped out to a 7-0 lead when the game began. However, by the time the first quarter ended, the Cavs had taken the lead, 28-24. The Raptors stayed within striking distance and managed to take a brief lead, 36-35, early in the second after C.J. Milles hit a 26-foot three-pointer.
But then the Cavs responded with a 21-4 run and took a 16-point lead, 56-40, with 3:33 left to play in the half. Toronto closed out the half on a 12-4 making the score at the half look a lot better, 60-52.
The Raptors got within five points early in the third but never really threatened Cleveland’s lead. Heading into the fourth they were still down by eight. They didn’t really threaten in the fourth either until the final minute of the game when C.J. Miles and Norman Powell combined to score eight points in about 34 seconds to pull Toronto within four points, 108-104.
But then Drew put his ‘A’ team back in to close out the game. Love and Hood each hit a pair of free throws to make the final score 112-106.
Fans of every other playoff team in the Eastern Conference will hate to admit it, but it is starting to look like the Cavs are coming together. With the playoffs around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better. The scary part, of course, is that they can still get better when Hill returns.
Cleveland will have another challenge on their hands Thursday when they face John Wall and the Wizards.
The Raptors already know that they can’t afford for either of their superstars to have a bad night. DeMar DeRozan had a decent night with 19 points. But they need Kyle Lowry to do much better than 2-11 from the floor for five points.
It doesn’t get any easier for them as they return home to face the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. They lost to the Celtics last Saturday in Boston, 110-99. Lowry had an off-night then as well (4-13 and 2-10 from three-point range for 11 points).