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DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving will see your 22 points and game-winning buzzer beater and raise you a 32-point night and a game-winning, buzzer beater, come-from-behind three. On Saturday night, the Toronto Raptors (16-28) had the tables turned on them, falling victim to a last-second gut punch on their home court against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With 12 seconds to go and Toronto leading by two, Irving calmly brought the ball up court while milking the clock. Standing at the top of the key about two steps behind the three-point line, Irving noticed that Alan Anderson had stepped off of him to prevent a blow-by and reacted, launching a calm, cool deep trey with 0.7 seconds showing on the clock to shush a stunned crowd. Also stunned, the home side couldn't get a shot off on the ensuing, last ditch effort.
Irving's winner came after a fall-apart fourth quarter which saw the Raptors cough up a nine-point lead within the first three minutes of the final frame. Despite strong contributions from the usual suspects - Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and Anderson (more on them in a moment) - Toronto failed to contain not just the second-year sensation, but an underwhelming supporting unit who helped give the Cavs new life.
The Consistent Ones
This space is, admittedly, biased towards standout showings, many of which are often one-offs. I've given Davis, for instance, as much credit of late as I have Terrence Ross, even though the power forward has been a steady double-double contributor for the Raps while Ross has been up-and-down. It's time to give the trio of Davis, Johnson and Anderson their due. While Anderson can sometimes be a liability when his shot is off (see: the Miami game), all three have brought regular scoring, defence, toughness and, in the case of Davis and Johnson, rebounding. With DeRozan struggling to assert himself many nights and Kyle Lowry performing unevenly, these three men have been at the heart of the club's balanced scoring attack. Against Cleveland, they each scored between 16 and 18 points while shooting 50% or better and providing an added dimension to their game (Davis and Johnson combined for 21 boards, Anderson had two steals).
Even before Irving stuck them with the last second dagger, it had been yet another trying final quarter for the Raptors. In fact, Irving wasn't even on the floor for Cleveland when most of the damage was done, with the Cavs jumping out on a 14-4 run by a little over three minutes into the frame. Toronto was burned not by star-calibre talents, but by depth guys like new additions Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights, as well as NBA nomad Shaun Livingston. This all came after the Raps looked to have righted the ship during a steady third that had propped the lead back up to nine. Really, Irving should have never had the opportunity to make his late three.
The Trey Battle, Again
In a one-point loss, you can't help but look at the numbers to determine what little things could've changed the over-all result. Case and point - the three-point shooting battle, which was a distinct disadvantage for the Raps. Though they only had one fewer triple than their visiting counterparts (6-5), they took six more attempts (17-11). As a result, they shot 29.4% from beyond the arc, to 54.5% by Cleveland.
- When I saw news of last week's cap-oriented Cleveland-Memphis trade that saw Jon Leuer and cap relief go to the Grizzlies for Ellington, Speights and a conditional first rounder, I didn't exactly think it would come to influence the Raps.
- Another day, another buzzer beater.
- While I don't care for the camo jersey, how can you not like the sentiment behind Canadian Forces Appreciation Night?
One of the great stories of the Western Conference come to Toronto, as the Golden State Warriors make their annual visit on Monday night (7:00pm, TSN). Currently sitting fifth in the West, the Warriors have ridden an impressive cadre of shooters (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and even Sixth Man candidate Jarrett Jack) and some surprisingly capable defence (thank you, David Lee and Draymond Green).
Prediction: Warriors 106, Raptors 103 (30-9 this season)