Final Score: Raptors: 116, Cavaliers: 104
- The Raptors started the game with great energy all around. Kyle Lowry was quick to infect the entire team with his momentum, and continued to keep it going through the final buzzer.
- Kawhi Leonard is finally back, and it’s about time we all got to watch this man play basketball again. After playing only nine games last season and only three preseason games prior to tonight, Leonard showed everyone that he still has that championship mentality somewhere inside him. Although he started the game relatively shaky and low key, he started coming out of his shell as the first half progressed. Once the second half started, Kawhi was comfortable and turned on the jets. The big man ended the game with a team-high of 24 points and 13 rebounds after shooting 9-for-22 from the field and 1-for-3 from the three-point line.
- Fouls aren’t great, as I’m sure everyone in the NBA knows. One thing the Raptors can’t do, is send someone like Kevin Love to the stripe 14 times. Love went 10-for-14 at the free throw, giving the Cavaliers some much needed freebies. Cleveland wouldn’t have come as close as they did, had the Raptors not given them a total of 39 attempts at the line.
- Effort was there from every single player who stepped foot on the court tonight. This team is full of fast-paced dynamic players and I know it’s only the first game of the regular season but from the way they played tonight, the Raptors could be on their way to a serious conference title run.
- Toronto’s power forward situation is solid, to say the least. Starting Pascal Siakam is smart, and having Serge Ibaka as the PF off the bench is even smarter. Siakam went 6-for-8 inside the arc, snagged a couple of boards and dished out 2 assists to end the game with 13 points. Ibaka struggled throughout most of the night, but ended up scoring nine points, grabbing seven boards, two steals and three blocks. Ibaka was a defensive powerhouse tonight, and that’s what Toronto needs from him right now.
- Obviously, the Cavaliers just want to make a statement to the league that they can succeed without a superstar like LeBron James. Their energy entering the game almost matched that of Toronto’s, however, the Raptors quickly took the game into their own hands by the second quarter.
- Transition game is so important. However, it goes both ways and the Cavaliers weren’t responsive on both ends of the court. Offensive transitions were effective, but their defensive transitioning needs some work. There were several times they let the Raptors’ athleticism get the best of them on fast breaks because of their lack of hustle.
- No more LeBron means more of everyone else. This game showed us that. Instead of the rotation and plays being almost always centered around one certain player, it’s now more of a team effort. Everyone is playing bigger roles this season and it was evident tonight.
- Rookie point guard Collin Sexton was having a hard time at the beginning of the game, but eventually found his rhythm. Sexton ended the game with nine points, going 2-for-7 from the field and 5-for-5 from the stripe. Jordan Clarkson and starting point guard George Hill both closed out the game with 15 points each. Sexton got almost as much playing time as Clarkson, and used those minutes to prove that he slowly but surely can play up with the vets.
- Tristan Thompson served more as a utility player tonight. He was in the right spot at the right time, but didn’t do much offensively. He only took five attempts from the field and made one shot, as well as one free throw, giving him a total of three points. Thompson did snag a team-high of 13 boards, his only useful stat of the night. His rebounds were helpful but we need to see more from him if this team wants to be among the top-3 in the East.