The Toronto Raptors got back on track Monday night with a crucial victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the win, Toronto moves to 26-35 on the season with just 11 games remaining, while Cleveland falls to 21-40 on the year. The Raptors were paced by the play of Pascal Siakam, who led all scorers with 25 points (on 11-for-19 shooting), while OG Anunoby scored 20 points on tidy 9-for-15 shooting.
Rookie Isaac Okoro led the way for the undermanned Cavaliers as he finished with 20 points on the night, while Darius Garland finished with 13 points and 10 assists.
Here are some takeaways from the buzzer…
The race to the Play-In
It's what everyone's got their eyes on.
With the win, Toronto moves within a game of the East's 10th seed as the Washington Wizards saw their eight-game win streak come to an end on Monday night. The Raptors own the tiebreaker over the Wizards and the two teams meet once more this season.
I'm sensing a photo finish.
Siakam delivers, again
After a big performance on Saturday, Siakam seemingly picked up right where he left off Monday night.
Siakam made his imprint on the game, finishing with a game-high 25 points on 11-for-19 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes of action. He knocked down two triples…
…had a nifty finish with the left…
With the left, @pskills43? 👀 pic.twitter.com/2TRxNFboan- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 27, 2021
…and made time for the signature spin move, of course.
Skills at work pic.twitter.com/G5goFKXfiI- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 27, 2021
Isaac Okoro has a bright future
The fifth pick in the past NBA Draft, Okoro entered the league known for having the potential to be a two-way ace as he developed quite the reputation as a defender during his lone season at Auburn.
He showed plenty of flashes on Monday.
After scoring the first five points of the night for Cleveland, Okoro entered the halftime break with 13 points, just six shy of a career-high.
Rook's got a game-high 13 points at the half! 🥶- Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) April 27, 2021
📺 #CavsRaptors on @BallySportsCLE pic.twitter.com/SU8332p9kN
The 20-year-old would surpass that career-high at Amalie Arena, scoring a team-high 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting. He was just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc but given his defensive instincts and offensive potential, the room to grow should be encouraging for Cavs fans moving forward.
Kyle Lowry sets the tone with his playmaking
Ball movement begets great offensive opportunities.
Monday night, Lowry got the ball moving early and often, dishing out five assists in the first quarter alone. Despite finishing the night with just nine points (on 3-for-9 shooting), Lowry dished out a team-high 10 assists, setting the tone for the rest of the team.
As a result of Lowry setting the tone, Khem Birch tied his career-high with 14 points, saying that because of Lowry it was "the easiest 14 points I've ever scored."
KLow 👉🏽 Khem- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 27, 2021
More importantly, the Raptors dished out 32 assists on 43 made baskets, with Fred VanVleet dishing out six, Malachi Flynn contributing five and Siakam's aforementioned four.
The offence just flows better when the ball is moving at such a rate.
The Bench steps it up
Saturday afternoon in New York, Toronto's second unit was outscored 43-11.
They stepped it up against Cleveland.
It took some time but the Raptors reserves made Saturday's performance a distant memory as the reserves scored 20 points in the fourth quarter alone. Flynn was the difference-maker, finishing with 18 points in 24 minutes off the bench, shooting 4-for-6 from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe.
Count the bucket for Flynn! #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/oQwzyt31T2- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) April 27, 2021
Overall, Toronto's bench finished with 36 points, outscoring Cleveland's second unit by five points.
After three quarters, the Raptors led 81-70. They would go on to outscore the Cavaliers 31-26 to exit with a 15-point win.
The significance? This season, Toronto is now 22-3 when leading after three quarters. While the team has relinquished quite a few leads in the fourth quarter itself, the team rarely loses when entering the fourth with an advantage.
Keep that in mind as the season winds down and the stakes increase.
NBA.com's Scott Rafferty aptly called Monday's meeting the "calm before the storm" for the Raptors, who are right back in action tomorrow night when they host the Brooklyn Nets at 7:30 p.m. on Sportsnet.
We'll be here, same time, same place.
Catch you then.
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