Summer League Raptors eliminated by Cavaliers, obviously

Raptors 68, Cavaliers 82 | Box Score

Get your jokes in. The Cleveland Cavaliers have eliminated the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs. It’s Las Vegas Summer League, sure, and LeBron James wasn’t around to do the deed. Still, you know there will be some Nick Nurse/Dwane Casey/generic Raptors-Cavaliers jokes. It’s inevitable, and it’s your last chance until at least April and probably for a few years. Have at it. Sigh.

Anyway, the game. As has been the case for the bulk of this tournament, offense was at a premium early on. That spoke well of Toronto’s defense, which was playing as it has when the team’s been at their best in Vegas, forcing three turnovers in the opening four minutes. Shot-making was hard to come by the other way, though, until Malachi Richardson hit a tough corner three to break a 2-2 dead heat nearly three minutes in. The gates opened a bit from there, as Rawle Alkins hit a three of his own and the Cavaliers got a pair of threes from John Holland and an and-one from Collin Sexton.

Legs in jumpers soon started to look as tired as you might expect with a sixth game in 10 days, and the sound of balls clanking off the rim – my favorite song – became the soundtrack. A Scoochie Smith triple pushed Cleveland ahead for the game’s first semi-meaningful lead, with an Alfonzo McKinnie finish through traffic and the now-customary Giddy Potts and Chris Boucher sparks off the bench helping keep Toronto around. Boucher became the first Raptor to cross the one-basket barrier in the game at the end of the quarter, keeping the early deficit at just four after a frame.

Boucher was the story again early in the second, as he finished off a really nice Alkins dump-off after timing a slide into space well around the drive, then pinned a Dakota Mathias attempt to the backboard, then made a nice post move for a dunk. Boucher’s dominance helped lead an 11-2 run across the quarters, putting Toronto back ahead until Sexton scored on a missed travel and Billy Preston followed it up by getting back to the line (a Summer League staple; dude has shot 30 percent this week but still has decent numbers because he’s shot a bunch of free throws). The tail end of the quarter was more back-and-forth with a heavy tilt toward defense – great on-ball energy and some shaky offensive decision-making were both on Toronto’s ledger – and Richardson and McKinnie did their best to keep the non-Boucher offense afloat. Toronto took a two-point lead into halftime despite shooting just 41 percent overall and 29 percent on threes, a testament to that defensive effort.

The Cavs had to play without Sexton for a few minutes to start the half as he had an eye-poke looked at, and that contributed to the game’s continued offensive ineptitude just a while longer. Cleveland would tie the game early on when Alkins got called for a tough foul late in the shot clock, and Holland and Marcus Lee quickly helped extend it, with Holland in particular having a great night of shot-making. The Raptors continued to struggle from all over the floor, and a 15-0 Cleveland run flipped the script from all five earlier games, Toronto faltering as the game went on rather than slowly finding a groove and playing better later. Scoring just two points over nearly eight minutes is just a tough way to hang in a game, you know? Boucher would finally break the 1-of-15 slump by finishing a lob from Marquis Teague, but the damage was done – the quarter ended 21-4, the Cavs taking a commanding 15-point lead into the fourth.

Things continued going off the rails, as the Raptors went two minutes without scoring atop this quarter, including quite a Preston block. McKinnie broke the slump with free throws, and then Nick Nurse called for a full-court press, leading to an easy bucket underneath off of a turnover. Potts promptly added a triple and then a mid-range jumper, and while that helped Toronto get close to back within single-digits, Potts felt it a bit too much and missed his next two jumpers off the bounce. The pressure continued to pay dividends, Potts hit another three, and a nice inbound play got McKinnie free throws in the post to keep staying around the 11-point mark.

Time was not in their side as the clock ticked below four minutes, and a beautiful Sexton scoop-and-one put Cleveland back ahead 15 and effectively ended things. Boucher still had the chance to wrap up his strong tournament with another foul drawn on offense and then a charge drawn the other way to cut it to 10, and he’d then foul out (elimination games have a cap of six, not 10), letting Cleveland take it home with an 82-68 final.

This caps an up-and-down Summer League for the Raptors, one that saw them start out poorly with three shaky showings with moderately improving process and then begin to put things together over the last three. On Sunday, it was a matter of an unspeakably bad offensive quarter outweighing any positives and, with four players sitting out, perhaps some fatigue setting in. Overall, it wasn’t quite the performance the Raptors have turned in with loaded rosters in recent years, but there was enough forward progress and strong individual play to come away feeling good about the Vegas fortnight. And it’s the last basketball we’ll get until Canada qualifiers in September, so I hope you soaked it in.


  • Yes, we’re copping my Raptors 905/Team Canada recap format here with half-gamer, half-notes. I figure it lends itself better to games like these where people might not be as concerned about the game-flow as the actual player performances.
    • As always, yes, all Summer League caveats apply. The context of the tournament needs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean information can’t be pulled from it – positive signs are allowed to breed optimism, and negatives can help inform the rest of a player’s offseason. Take it for what it is, and enjoy.
  • RAPTORS NOTES: Chris Boucher was the best all-around Raptor in this one despite an errant 3-point shot, as he finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks. Really good second half of the tournament for him.
    • Rawle Alkins had four steals and two assists to atone for a 1-of-8 night…Malachi Richardson struggled with his shot and only had one assist to four turnovers but I actually thought he made some nice reads in the pick-and-roll…Alfonzo McKinnie once again had a tough shooting night, though he had six rebounds and two steals…Giddy Potts was 4-of-14 and 2-of-10 on threes.
    • INJURIES: OG Anunoby sat this one out for rest again. Same deal as yesterday, just being safe at the end of a compressed week. Most teams do this with key players by the second week of Summer League every year…Jordan Loyd sat with back spasms, pushing him to 2.5 games missed in the tourney due to the issue…Fuquan Edwin missed a sixth consecutive game with a left knee injury…Malcolm Miller is done for Summer League with a dislocated shoulder.
    • IN ATTENDANCE: I don’t know, I’m back in Toronto now.
  • CAVALIERS NOTES: John Holland had a very nice 23 points on 15 possessions…Collin Sexton had 16 points with eight assists and looked better as the tournament went along…Cavs fans are definitely going to get ahead of themselves with Billy Preston at times this year…Scoochie!
  • UP NEXT: The Raptors are now eliminated and done in Las Vegas, while the Cavs move on to the semi-finals.

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