Raptors’ Summer League run ends with loss to Cavaliers

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Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

The Toronto Raptors played the Cleveland Cavaliers in a playoff game, so you already know how this ends.

Perhaps it was the sheer presence of LeBron James in Las Vegas, perhaps it was the second consecutive day of rest for prized sophomore OG Anunoby. Whatever it was, it hit the Raptors hard in the third quarter of the teams’ Las Vegas Summer League meeting Sunday night.

That’s when the Cavs took control, outscoring the Raptors 21-4 as part of a decisive stretch that gave them an 82-68 victory to advance to the semifinals against — wait for it — LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers, who defeated Dwane Casey’s new team, the Detroit Pistons, 101-78. Talk about six degrees of separation.

Toronto shot 1-for-15 during that putrid stretch of basketball in which they struggled getting to the basket against a Cavaliers defence that was very active with their hands, settled for tough jumpers as a result, and generally just failed to execute their sets in the half-court.

It’s arguable that a team playing for the sixth time in 10 nights is bound to have a stretch like that, and Rawle Alkins’ disappearing act presents the biggest example of what fatigue can do.

One night after making his case for a contract offer with a 25-point, 11-rebound outing, Alkins put up a complete dud with just three points and two rebounds. That meant the Raptors would need a big night out of Malachi Richardson or Alfonzo McKinnie, but the pair combined to shoot 4-of-17 from three-point range and needed 29 shots overall for their 28 points.

The Raptors shot a woeful 30.9 per cent from the field overall and 20 per cent from three-point range, but the 40 three-point attempts tell an important part of the story. Head coach Nick Nurse is expected to continue Toronto’s movement-oriented offence, even crank things up a notch, so increase in volume of threes is part of the process. He may not have had the necessary pieces to have it be an effective strategy over the course of this summer tournament, but as is the case with these events, the process outweighs the results.

One player who can leave with his head held high courtesy of strong performances through the elimination stage is Montreal’s Chris Boucher. The 25-year-old finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, using his length to great effect on both ends of the floor.

Collin Sexton, who represents the draft pick acquired by the Cavaliers as part of the Kyrie Irving trade to Boston, led from the front with 18 points and six assists. The eighth-overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft showed off his speed several times during the game, even making it difficult for road runner Marquis Teague to keep up with him.

The 19-year-old didn’t look for his jumper often, but didn’t need to, as his eight free-throw attempts in 27 minutes will attest to.

John Holland also had a solid outing for the Cavs, stroking the ball from the outside to finish with 23 points on just 12 shots that included four hits from downtown. He spent last season with their NBA G League affiliate, the Canton Charge.

There won’t be any more Raptors basketball till September, with the Cavs once again putting them out of business.

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