The Toronto Raptors turned it on in the fourth quarter but their late-game rally fell short as they lost 116-105 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.
The loss marked their eighth-consecutive defeat as they slip to 17-25 on the season, just 1.0 game up of the 12th seed Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings, one spot out of the play-in tournament.
Fred VanVleet led the Raptors with 23 points on the night, while Kyle Lowry and Norm Powell added 18 apiece and OG Anunoby 17. Collin Sexton powered the Cavaliers with 36.
It's the first time the Raptors have lost eight in a row since Jan. 10-22, 2012. Here are the key takeaways at the buzzer:
1. Comeback falls short....just
After trailing by 16 points entering the fourth quarter, the Raptors took it down to the wire, thanks to contributions from some unlikely sources in Patrick McCaw and Stanley Johnson, while OG Anunoby marshaled the defence and knocked down some timely shots in the run.
It was a six-point game with six minutes remaining as the Raptors leaned on the small-ball unit of Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Anunoby, Johnson and McCaw down the stretch.
Keep pushing pic.twitter.com/c2g4s2y4Pw- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 22, 2021
Toronto ramped up their defensive effort in the final frame, picking up the Cavaliers fullcourt, forcing eight turnovers in the period alone. On the night, the Cavaliers turned the ball over 27 times, which the Raptors turned into 26 points.
2. VanVleet leads the way
Fred VanVleet came up with a huge 3-pointer with 54 seconds remaining to cut the lead to five points as the comeback drew closer, but that's as close as they got, with a dunk from Larry Nance Jr. on the next possession and a pair of free throws from Dean Wade, putting an end to the Raptors' chances.
VanVleet finished with a team-high 23 points, to go with seven assists, two steals and two blocks, shooting 8-of-24 from the field and 5-of-15 from deep.
While he had an off night shooting the ball, he has now made a 3-pointer in 69 consecutive games - a franchise record.
3. Ice-cold third
After going into the half trailing 59-57, the Raptors fell apart in the third quarter as the Cavs outscored them 32-18.
The Cavs got whatever they wanted in the period, scoring the first 12 points out of the break, with Sexton's 3-pointer capping the run to make it 71-57.
Cleveland seized control of the contest in the period, shooting 65 percent from the field and 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from the 3-point line, while the Raptors struggled to respond, going 7-of-25 from the field and 1-of-11 from deep.
4. Siakam struggles
After scoring 27 points in their last game against the Jazz, Pascal Sakam couldn't get going against the Cavs, recording just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
He went to the bench in the third quarter and did not see the floor again, with Nick Nurse sticking with the guys who led the comeback.
Nurse says that Siakam is doing OK physically after the long layoff, still getting his conditioning back, but the decision to go without him in the 4th was more about sticking with the guys that got them back into the game than anything else.- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 22, 2021
In three games since returning to the Raptors lineup, Siakam is averaging 16.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 35.6 percent shooting from the field and 31.3 percent from the 3-point line.
5. Sexton and Allen unstoppable
The Raptors had no answer for Collin Sexton, who poured in 36 points on 13-of-24 shooting, knocking down a career-best six 3-pointers.
Mess with The Bull and get the horns. 😈@CollinSexton02 poured in 23 of his 36 points after the half in tonight's #CavsRaptors W!#BeTheFight pic.twitter.com/RgXr8CDWuD- Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 22, 2021
Jarrett Allen dominated inside with 17 points and 15 rebounds as the Cavs won the battle on the glass 54-37, thanks largely to the big man.
He wasn't alone though, as six different players finished with 5+ rebounds - Larry Nance Jr, JaVale McGee and Isaac Okoro had seven apiece, Cedi Osman had six and Darius Garland hauled in five.
6. Homestand coming up
As it stands the Raptors sit 11th in the Eastern Conference standings, 2.5 games back of the Chicago Bulls.
The good news, they play 14 of their next 20 games at their temporary home in Tampa, where they're 8-10 on the season, compared to 9-15 on the road.
"This season has been about as hard as it could have been, to be honest," Nurse said. "But I believe these things even out, so things should be looking awesome soon."
7. What's next?
The Raptors are back in action tomorrow as they visit the Houston Rockets, who are riding a 20-game losing streak.
Game tips off 9:00 p.m. E.T.
See you then.
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