Published On: Fri, Jan 12th, 2018

Raptors bench runs wild on Cavaliers

To hear the Raptors tell it, Thursday night’s meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers wasn’t a measuring stick kind of game — win or lose.

There were absences: Kyle Lowry, out for the second of who knows how many games with a bruised tailbone, and Serge Ibaka, serving a one-game suspension for a punch thrown at Miami’s James Johnson on Tuesday.

There was also a dip in the visitors’ form, with LeBron James and company coming into the night 4-6 in their last 10 games.

No, Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan agreed, Thursday wasn’t about whether the Raptors could match the reigning Eastern Conference champions, a team that played in the last three NBA finals, day to day. It was about toughness; the next guy stepping up, doing a little bit more and besting whatever version of the Cavaliers came their way.

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That mantra didn’t change even after the Raptors’ 133-99 blowout win, breaking the franchise record for points in regulation.

“This game doesn’t make or break us,” Casey said. “We’ve still got how many more games to go. Whether we lost the game tonight or won the game tonight doesn’t define who we are. We’re still a work in progress . . . It’s not over with. We still have work to do as far as moving the ball and making that part of our playing personality every night, no matter who they are or how they’re playing you. Tonight was just, we’ve just got to keep it consistent.”

Jonas Valanciunas, left, dominated early, putting up nine points and nine rebounds in little more than six minutes. He would double that rebound total by game?s end while finishing with 15 points.
Jonas Valanciunas, left, dominated early, putting up nine points and nine rebounds in little more than six minutes. He would double that rebound total by game?s end while finishing with 15 points.  (Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  

In a matchup usually dominated by stars such as DeRozan and James, some of the lesser-knowns made the difference. Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Norm Powell, Fred VanVleet and Lorenzo Brown (who played 35 minutes in the G League Showcase earlier in the day) were the engineers of a game-turning 18-2 run in the second quarter.

“It should give them confidence,” Casey said of his second unit’s performance. “It should give a guy like Norm Powell, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, all those guys confidence to know that, ‘Hey, I belong, I’m a big part of this team,’ which they are. I think it sends that message to everyone in the locker room.”

The Raptors’ desire was apparent from the get-go, as were the holes in the Cavaliers’ lethargic defence. Jonas Valanciunas dominated early, putting up nine points and nine rebounds in little more than six minutes. He would double that rebound total by game’s end while finishing with 15 points.

But it wasn’t until the backups assembled in the second quarter that the possibility of back-to-back blowout losses for the Cavaliers, who lost by 28 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, took shape. Powell and VanVleet put up eight points each, with Siakam reaching double digits; the crowd, growing more excited with every dunk and rebound, gave Poeltl and Brown a rousing sendoff when they subbed out with five minutes left in the quarter.

When the Cavaliers pushed, the Raptors pushed back; their slimmest lead of the quarter was 23 points, boosted by an 11-point push from DeRozan and VanVleet reaching a career-high 19 points — he wound up with 22. The Raptors drained 18 three-pointers, the most the Cavs have allowed this season.

Toronto fans shared the love with ex-Raptor Jose Calderon when he entered the game midway through the fourth quarter of the contest that was otherwise all about the Raptors.

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Raptors bench runs wild on Cavaliers