The Toronto Raptors closed 2019 with a convincing win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Here are some quick thoughts from the game...
1. An update on Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell
The update is ... there is no real update.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told reporters before the game that Siakam, Gasol and Powell are all improving but that they're still "a ways away" from returning.
The 'Big 3' of the Raptors walking wounded - Siakam (groin); Powell (shoulder) and Gasol (hamstring) - are still 'a ways away' said Nurse before Raps get set to close our decade vs. Cavs- Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 31, 2019
The Raptors are now 4-3 in the games Siakam, Gasol and Powell have missed, but they've got some tough games coming up in the first couple of weeks in January. It'll be interesting to see if they can continue to survive without the three of them.
2. OG Anunoby is alive!
December was a struggle for Anunoby.
Prior to Wednesday's game, he had made only 19.3 percent of his 3-point attempts in the month, down from a scorching 48.9 percent in November.
That's why it was encouraging to see him open the game by going 2-for-2 from the perimeter, the first of which was quite difficult:
OG close to Q pic.twitter.com/JUpJLcyEdc- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 1, 2020
Those were the only 3-pointers Anunoby made, but he went on to score 12 points, grab seven rebounds and dish out four assists, making for one of his better all-around games of the season.
The Raptors can only hope that's a sign of what's to come in January and beyond.
3. The Cavaliers ... aren't great
The Cavaliers entered this game ranked 25th in the league in offensive efficiency and 29th in defensive efficiency, so it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that they struggled in both regards against the Raptors.
First and foremost, they gave up 117 points to a Raptors team that was down two starters, plus Powell, who was having the best season of his career before his shoulder injury. Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 24 points, followed by Serge Ibaka and Terence Davis, the latter of whom tied his career-high of 19 points in 24 minutes off the bench.
In total, six Raptors scored in double figures.
Secondly, the Cavaliers only put up 97 points themselves. They made 42.5 percent of their field goal attempts and 26.3 percent of their 3-point attempts in the loss.
The Cavaliers now have the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. Given how their season is going, it'll be interesting to see how aggressive they are between now and the trade deadline, particularly when it comes to Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. It's already been reported that the Cavaliers are now ready to listen to trade offers for Love, and this is the final year on Thompson's contract.
With how well he's been playing, the Cavaliers might be able to get a good return for Thompson before he becomes an unrestricted free agent - unless, of course, they intend on re-signing him.
4. Terence Davis can serve up a mean poster
Speaking of Davis, two of his 19 points came in impressive fashion:
That's how you feel, @TerenceDavisJr 👀 pic.twitter.com/JMc5QvX7EU- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 1, 2020
5. Kyle Lowry is looking like an All-Star again
Not that Lowry was playing poorly prior to the injuries to Siakam, Gasol and Powell, but he's taken his game to another level since.
In the seven games Siakam, Gasol and Powell have missed, Lowry has scored at least 20 points in all but one. He's also scored at least 30 points in three of those seven games.
For perspective, Lowry had a grand total of one 30-point game before they went down with injuries.
There's still a lot of basketball to be played between now and when voting ends for the All-Star Game, but Lowry is making a strong case to make his sixth straight appearance.
Step-back Lowry.- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 1, 2020
Vote @Klow7 👉🏽 https://t.co/kQYeprYRUk pic.twitter.com/ZH6nyiRSXo
6. The Raptors continue to take care of business
In beating the Cavaliers, the Raptors improve to 17-0 this season against teams below .500.
The Milwaukee Bucks (21-0) and Los Angeles Lakers (17-0) are the only other teams that enter the new year with a perfect record against teams with a losing record.
7. What's next
The Raptors will be back in action on Friday when they travel to Miami to take on the Heat.
The Raptors have already played the Heat once this season. Led by Jimmy Butler's triple-double, the Heat won in overtime by a final score of 121-110.
A win won't be easy to come by in Miami - the Raptors will once again be without Siakam, Gasol and Powell - but this team has proven time and time again that they can't be counted out. It should make for a fun one.
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