The Toronto Raptors played their best game of the 2017-18 season on Thursday, and they did it on their biggest stage of their schedule so far - in a USA national television broadcast against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They've lost seven of their last 10 games, capped off by the Cavs' 133-99 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.
The Cavaliers were thumped by 28 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday and got crushed by the Raptors despite Toronto playing without two of their stars - Kyle Lowry (tailbone) and Serge Ibaka (suspension). It also marks the third game in row in which Cleveland has allowed 127 or more points. The Cavs finished the season 15-8 and later won the Finals. The Warriors, too, are coming off their third-straight Finals, and though their roster is much better constructed to play defense, they still rank third in defensive rating, giving up 102.5 points per 100 possessions. Kevin Love added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland. Fifteen years. I don't know, I've been in this spotlight for half of my years.
James finished with 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He's not a flashy passer and no one will mistake him for Chris Paul, but DeRozan has been better this season at simply finding the open man and swinging the ball to shooters, when in the past he was more likely to take a less-than-ideal shot. Sixers forward Robert Covington had the worst night of all, knocking down just two field goals while registering a minus-25 with four turnovers.
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Trailing 6-4, Cleveland used a 22-0 run to take a 26-6 lead in the first quarter.
It was a stunning twist, coming nearly exactly nine months after the Cavs rallied from a 26-point deficit on the same court to beat IN in the playoffs. The advantage stretched to 59-36 as Siakam scored six consecutive points, four of them on dunks.
And it's not surprising this recent downturn has coincided with the return of Isaiah Thomas, who is trying to get up to speed after spending the past several months rehabbing his injured right hip.
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He even fell victim, once again, to the irritations of Lance Stephenson.
Nemanja Bjelica ignited a fourth-quarter burst with a 3-pointer as Minnesota broke open a tight game en route to a victory over NY in Minneapolis. Jordan's talent would improve Cleveland's effectiveness near the rim, considering he's averaging 11.8 points, 14.9 rebounds and 1.0 block this season.
In a video posted by EuroHoops from Thursday night's game James, not Tyronn Lue, looks like the Cavaliers' head coach. Nikola Jokic added 14 points and nine rebounds for Denver, which played without guard Gary Harris, who was excused for personal reasons. "We've got to be locked in to what we're doing and be professional".
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