On Thursday night in Orlando, the Toronto Raptors won the game thanks to a game-winner from DeMar DeRozan. It was their first in six seasons. On Saturday night in Toronto, there was another game-winner.
This one wasn’t made by a Raptor.
After trailing by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, Kyrie Irving scored 12 of his 32 points in the final 12 minutes, including the game-winning three with 0.7 on the clock.
That’s the reason why the 20-year-old point guard on a team that just collected its 13th victory in 45 games was named an all-star.
Losing to the Cavaliers at home after catching them on the second night of a back-to-back was a blow to a Raptors team that is still working to figure out how to piece together 48 minutes of basketball.
“It happened in Orlando the opposite way so we know how it feels,” Jose Calderon said. “We shouldn’t have let it get to that point. We played good enough to win the game. He (Kyrie) made a great three.”
Trailing by two with 12.6 on the clock, Irving made the decision to play for the win. He consulted his coach before the possession and was given the go ahead.
“We had a quick little conversation and he said, ‘What should I do?’” Byron Scott said. “I said, ‘We’re just going to clear it out for you and, me personally, I’d go for the win. Don’t leave much time up there and just go for the win,’ he said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do,’ and I said, ‘Sounds good.’
With Alan Anderson guarding him near the three-point line, Irving rose and drilled a 28-foot pull up three-pointer. As it sailed through the net, he remained frozen in position, the smile not appearing on his face until his teammates tackled him with 0.7 on the clock.
Irving was asked whether he was surprised that Anderson didn’t guard him tighter on that final possession.
“He was at the three point line,” Irving said. “I…was a little bit further back.”
After dropping 32 points and adding another game-winning shot to his resume, Irving was ready to return to Cleveland. Asked what he was thinking as he watched his shot fall, he said, “Let’s get out of Toronto. Let’s go home, fellas.”
Thanks to their all-star point guard the Cavs shuffled out of their locker room victorious while the Raptors went home to wait for Monday where the Golden State Warriors will be another test.
A few positives
- DeMar DeRozan getting off to a quick start against the Cavs, picking up where he left off in that fourth quarter against the Magic. DeRozan scored 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting in the opening quarter on Saturday night. The bad is that he finished the game with just 15 points and shot only 1-for-8 in the remaining three quarters. DeRozan did some great things during the team’s recent road trip to Florida. Now he needs to work on finding balance and consistency to help his team out for the full 48 minutes.
- Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. This sounds like a broken record at this point, but the big-man duo continue to play great basketball. With 16 points and nine boards from Davis and 18 points and 12 boards from Johnson, they’re doing what is needed of them while also playing with hustle and full-out effort that is contagious within the team.
- Kyle Lowry struggled from the floor against the Cavaliers, hitting just one of his seven attempts, but he delivered some beautiful passes to his teammates. The Raptors need Lowry to get back to the player he was when he started the season. Since his return from injury he has been both passive and aggressive on the floor. As he continues to find himself within this Raptors team, he’s also finding his teammates in positions to score and learning where they want the ball and how he can help create for them.
- Most rookie seasons have just as many silly mistakes as superb moments. They’re up and down and about learning and growing and getting comfortable in the NBA game. After nearly costing the Raptors the game in Orlando by leaving J.J. Redick for an open three pointer and then fouling him for the four-point play opportunity, Terrence Ross was timid in his first 11 minutes against the Cavaliers. On the floor for his scoring capabilities, he didn’t attempt a shot through the first three quarters.
When he was put into the game in the fourth, he came alive. Shaking off the bad decision making in Orlando, Ross played the entire fourth quarter and scored all eight of his points in the period. He was active defensively and looked like he belonged.
Dion Waiters, Cleveland’s fourth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, has had a similar season of ups and downs. While he has been in and out of the Cavs’ starting lineup, he had a rough night against the Raptors, finishing with six points on 10 shots. He also picked up four fouls in his first eight minutes of play. To his credit, he finished the game without picking up another.
Like Ross, Waiters has had games where he has looked sensational and others where he has looked lost. This is what being a rookie is about. The biggest thing is shaking off the bad games and rough weeks to keep getting better and becoming more comfortable.