The Cleveland Cavaliers (17-50) avoided a season sweep at the hands of the Toronto Raptors (48-20) with a dominant 126-101 win Monday night.
Rookie guard Collin Sexton led the way for Cleveland with a game-high 28 points while Kevin Love added a monster 16-point, 18-rebound double-double. Kawhi Leonard's 25 points were a game-high for the Raptors, but it wasn't nearly enough as the team struggled offensively all night.
Tempers flared at the end of the third quarter, and Toronto's Serge Ibaka and Cleveland's Marquese Chriss were both ejected from the game. The Raptors' biggest lead was two points and they trailed by as many as 27 points on what can be described as a rough night.
With that in mind, here are some takeaways from Monday night…
On the heels of a game in which they knocked down a franchise-record-tying 21 3-pointers, the Raptors shot a subpar 11-for-39 (28.2 percent) from deep against the Cavs. To make matters worse, Cleveland shot an impressive 18-for-41 (43.9 percent) from beyond the arc to outscore Toronto 54-33 from long range.
It wasn't just 3-point shooting, either.
While the Raptors were 29-for-45 (64.4 percent) on 2-point field goals, the team hit just 10 of its 17 attempts from the charity stripe for a 58.8 percent mark. Kawhi Leonard shot an uncharacteristically poor 0-for-3 from the free throw line while Kyle Lowry failed to get to the line - two players that on average combine to shoot nearly 11 free throws per night shot just three.
This could be blamed on it being the second end of a back-to-back or the fact that the Raptors just didn't have it Monday night, but it's an issue that should be remedied when the Lakers come to Toronto Thursday night.
Coming out flat after the half
Despite a less-than-stellar performance in the first 24 minutes, the Raptors entered the half down just four points.
With a good start to the second half, Toronto would have been right back in it but instead, things were less than ideal.
Less than two minutes into the third quarter, the Cavs used a 7-0 run to get out to an 11-point lead. The Raptors would later respond with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to five points - the closest they would get for the rest of the game.
Cleveland outscored Toronto 32-22 in the third quarter to take a 14-point lead into the fourth. The Cavs outdid themselves in the fourth, outscoring the Raptors 35-24 for a 67-46 advantage in the final 24 minutes of the game.
A day after committing 21 turnovers in a 21-point win over Miami, Toronto committed 20 turnovers in a 25-point loss to Cleveland.
It's worth noting that seven of the Raptors' 20 turnovers against the Cavs were offensive fouls, a note on the tenacity and hustle with which the host team played. Cleveland converted these takeaways into 17 points, taking advantage of Toronto's miscues.
The number of charges drawn indicates that the turnovers weren't necessarily a product of carelessness with the ball, but rather a solid positioning from the Cavs defence and the will to put their bodies on the line. Still, following a 21 turnover performance with 20 more turnovers is not ideal.
The Raptors must look to clean things up down the stretch of the season.
The Cavs rookie point guard is deserving of a takeaway of his own.
Sexton, who is averaging 17.9 points per game since the All-Star break, impressed throughout the night, finishing with a game-high 28 points (on 10-for-18 shooting), connecting on four of his seven 3-point attempts - tying a career-high in made 3-pointers.
As with all rookies, there have been some rocky moments in Sexton's first campaign, but Monday night served as a reminder of his potential as an up-and-coming player. It's even more encouraging that he isn't too far removed from his 20th birthday.
With the Cavs ushering in a new era of basketball, Sexton is proving that he is more than worthy of being one of the cornerstones of the future.