Toronto Raptors pulled off a decisive 100 – 88 win against the Cleveland Guardians at the Scotiabank Arena last night.
It was probably helped by the fact that the Raptors finally saw the return of Pascal Siakam, back on court to support VanFleet and Anunoby.
The 28-year-old from Cameroon had missed 10 of the last 19 season games due to a groin injury picked up after the Mavericks game on the 4th. It didn’t take long for him to get back in the groove and show us why he’s a key forward in Raptors.
Cavaliers looked like they were no pushovers in this match. The team currently sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference with 13 wins, some against whipper-snappers like Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and even the Detroit Pistons.
With the likes of Garland and Mobley holding court, Raptors had a fight on their hands but as we’ll see, by the 3rd quarter things started to fall apart for Cavaliers as Siakam’s return to Raptors was very much welcomed.
Right off the bat, Cavaliers took the lead with Raptors managing to keep the score gap small. Something clicks in the Raptors and by the mid-point of the quarter, the Raptors took the lead. Cavaliers weren’t far behind though.
Raptors opened well but the nails started to bite when they fought to hold the lead. It was relentless but Raptors managed to score some hefty points to help extend their win in the last third of the period. They finished in front on 52 – 43.
Raptors now had the commanding lead over Cavaliers. Try as they might, Cavaliers just couldn’t close the gap that Raptors had opened. The advantage was as large as 18 by the close of the quarter.
The 4th Quarter arrived and screeched on agonisingly for Cavaliers. While they did their best to protect their hoop from an onslaught of Raptor attacks, they just couldn’t mount a meaningful counter and the lead built in the 3rd just proved too much for them to beat.
Siakam is back
Siakam is clearly back for Raptors and he definitely earned his welcome back in the team. He built up a tally of 18 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 7 Field Goals made within the space of the 30 minutes he played.
Team-mates were raving about his return to the court, some calling it déjà vu of the season opener.
‘It felt like the first game of the season (also against Cleveland) all over again, a little déjà vu there,’ Fred VanFleet said.
The general feeling from the Raptors manager is that Siakam’s return will bolster their defence and help them get back to penetrating opposing team’s offense more efficiently. It was proven Monday night.
‘I think we’re all aware that he was creating a lot of faced-up, catch-and-shoot threes for guys. That’s kind of the best (three-point field goal) to get and maybe we weren’t getting as many good looks, or as rhythmic of looks, whatever,” Nurse said. “I haven’t studied it that closely to know that exactly, but probably would assume that to be the case.’
The question for Nurse now, is how to build a cohesive team to take them through into the remainder of the season.