Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. And no, LeBron James had nothing to do with this. Whatever the case may be, Toronto cannot break the sacred curse of being defeated by the Cavaliers in a playoff format.
After starting out the preliminary stage with 0 wins and 3 losses, this would’ve sent the Toronto Raptors packing early from this year’s Summer League and not have even seen their way into the Summer League playoffs. But this year is different, as all 30 NBA teams being able to compete for a shot at the Summer League title.
With a semi-finals spot on the line on Sunday, the Raptors were underdogs going into a tough match-up vs the Cleveland Cavaliers where the winner would face off against the number one seeded team in the tournament; the Los Angeles Lakers (Maybe then LeBron might have a thing or two to do with that. But that’s another issue). The Toronto Raptors came into yesterday’s game riding a two-game winning streak. During those outings, they claimed a victory over the Nuggets and a thrilling overtime win over Michigan State star Miles Bridges and the Charlotte Hornets.
Fans were shocked to see that Raptors’ rising star OG Anunoby did not play in the second-round matchup vs the Hornets and quarter-finals matchup vs the Cavaliers. Fans started to speculate a possible injury to the young star. That speculation was quickly shot down as it was listed that Anunoby would not be playing the remainder of games in the tournament for resting purposes and to not risk an injury.
In a thrilling second-round matchup that saw 13 lead changes and only the second overtime game of the tournament, it didn’t disappoint. Rawle Alkins carried the Raptors late in the stages of the fourth quarter with a clutch three which ultimately tied the game and forced overtime. Toronto ended up riding that momentum in OT, giving themselves the edge over the Hornets behind Alkins 25 points and 11 rebounds in 27 minutes of work.
“We didn’t have a great start to the tournament - starting out 0 and 3; but we’re here now and we don’t want to go home.” said Alkins. Although some may say it’s just Summer League, as a player it’s different. The more you win, the more you can show off to your coaches for a potential spot on the main roster. And that’s exactly what Alkins meant.
Just 24 hours later, the Raptors were on the court again to take on the Cavaliers. The first half was typical Summer League basketball action - nothing shy of what we have seen throughout the tournament. An average score at halftime with Toronto leading by two, 39-37. This is where the game turned around and the wheels feel off for Toronto. The Raptors ended up scoring only four points in the third quarter.
They were outscored by the Cavs 21-4 in the quarter, pretty much putting the game out of reach. Cleveland never looked back, winning the game 82-68 and will now play for a spot in the NBA Summer League finals vs the Lakers.
Toronto shot an abysmal 1-15 in the quarter. Some can call fatigue a factor, as Toronto played six games in ten nights in Vegas. But that’s no excuse, especially after a clutch performance from Alkins in the previous game. This meant it was time for someone else to step up, as Alkins did not perform up to par vs the Cavs. But no one did. The Raptors shot a woeful 31% from the field and just 20% from three shooting a combined 40 three-pointers on the night. Typically, this is a lot, but under new head coach Nick Nurse, that is the new normal and what Nurse described as “a part of the process."
Although it was a horrid performance by Toronto, there were a lot of guys who held their heads high after the total six games played, some of which deserved attention. The aforementioned Rawle Alkins for his stellar game against the Hornets, as well as Chris Boucher - the 25-year old Canadian who finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks. Boucher came from the Golden State Warriors organization, where he was with the team on a two-year, two-way deal, but didn’t play at the NBA level. Instead, he played in the NBA G-League for a few years, to only be here in the Summer League with Toronto for a potential chance to play in his home country for the only basketball team in Canada.
If there are any few names that you should know and take away come this season for Toronto, pay close attention to the following, who played outstanding in this tournament:
- Giddy Potts.
- Rawle Alkins.
- Chris Boucher.
- Alfonzo McKinnie.
- Malachi Richardson.
Even though you might be a bit familiar with the last two, for the remainder - anything can happen this season. Toronto could end up calling up a few of these names to the NBA this season as a result of injury or other circumstances. It’s all about earning your spot, and for these men, the opportunity came at the 2018 Summer League in Las Vegas. But for now, there will not be any more Raptors’ basketball until September. As luck would have it, it once again comes from the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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