The Raptors went to Cleveland and they showed us some things we have not seen in a long long time. Hustle and heart and an overall team effort that we haven't seen in years. The defence first was as advertised and much improved. But the offence was not left at the border either. The Raptors had 10 players play in the game and 8 of those 10 were in double figures scoring. Calderon and DeRozan led the group effort with 15 points each. For DeRozan the majority of that came late in the 4th quarter. Calderon was great on offence and not nearly the liability he has been in the past on defence. Amir Johnson might have been the best of the bunch getting the start at the center position and he had 13 points and 13 rebounds some key ones down the stretch.
Andrea Bargnani was not the scoring force we are use too. But he was able to make some key baskets down the stretch as well. Calderon clearly made his case for why he should be the starter for this team with 15 points as mentioned but 11 assists and 6 rebounds as well. The Raptors battled hard and had 9 blocked shots and won the battle of the boards 45-37. Ed Davis looks much improved as well as he got a key offensive rebound and a put back score when the Cavs had crept back to within 2 points.
Tristan Thompson had a solid debut for the Cavs. He had 13 points and 5 rebounds in just 17 minutes on the floor. Kyrie Irving the first overall pick struggled with 6 points shooting 2-12 and was able to get 7 assists despite his troubles shooting. The Cavs looked like the team that was well on the way to returning to the lottery more than the Raptors on this night.
There were bumps in the road along the way but the Raptors for the most part gave 100% effort on both ends of the floor and were rewarded with a win for their efforts. Forget pounding the rock the Raptors were passing it and doing it well. They had 35 assists on 42 made field goals shooting 53.2% from the field. While the Raptors held the Cavs to just 41.2% from the field.
Give the Raptors credit for taking apart a team that they should beat. The home opener should be a step up in class with the much improved Pacers coming to town for the Raptors home opener on Wednesday. But if the Raptors can perform like they did tonight the ACC will be more filled than expected this year and fans will have a lot more to get excited about.
This was in it's truest sense a team win. The Raptors are never going to beat to many teams any other way. If you were told that DeRozan would do little in the first 3 quarters of this game and that he and Bargnani would combine for just 28 points what would you think the result would be? Chances are a loss and likely a bad one. But the Raptors may have answered a question that I asked in the preview for this game. Who is going to be the third scorer for this team? The answer might be everyone. The simple fact is the Raptors will need a team effort to have any chance to win games. Against some of the better teams in this league even with that team effort it will be tough to pull off a win. But without it the chances are next to impossible.
This is a long way from being a fair tale story just yet. But the Raptors matched apathy in terms of expectations with energy and hustle that people who have followed this team have not seen in years. So far so good but this is just step one of what is going to be a tough grind of a season for everyone in the NBA. But it was about as good a first step as you could have hoped for. The Raptors showed they can play defence and not let it stop them from being able to score on the other end.
After a long lockout and more gloom and doom talk than you can shake a stick at, the Raptors provided fans a performance they can be proud of and a win. Dwane Casey deserves a lot of credit for changing the attitude of this team. Under Jay Triano the Raptors would have folded at some point and lost their lead and given up. That didn't happen tonight. Things have changed and the change was badly needed. Raptors win 104-96 and cruise into the winner's circle.