New-look Raptors clip Cavaliers 124-121


TORONTO – The Scotiabank Arena crowd was almost as loud as it was in 2019 when the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. This time though, it was to welcome RJ Barrett back to his hometown.

Pascal Siakam scored 36 points as the new-look Raptors held off the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-121 on Monday in the Toronto debuts of Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. Barrett finished with 19 point and nine rebounds two days after he and Quickley were traded to the Raptors from the New York Knicks.

Barrett, who is from nearby Mississauga, Ont., was a cornerstone of Canada’s bronze-medal team at the FIBA World Cup in September. He said he was moved by the fans’ ovation when his name was announced in Toronto’s starting lineup.

“Man, it meant a lot, y’know? It meant a lot,” said Barrett after the game. “I’m the hometown kid, just coming in and trying to get a win for the fans, trying to win for the country. It felt great.”

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Darko Rajakovic, who became the Raptors head coach in the off-season, said that Barrett’s introduction was the loudest he had heard in Toronto’s arena since the championship era, when he was an assistant on the Phoenix Suns.

“You could just see the emotions, maybe after New Year’s, it was a lot of crowd noise to start the game,” said Rajakovic. “They really liked the applause for RJ Barrett, a Canadian, coming back.

“I see that Canadians are really excited about it. All of that together brought a lot of energy and juice to Scotiabank. It was a fun night.”

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Quickley, who was typically a reserve for New York, finished with 14 points as six Raptors (13-20) scored in double digits. Scottie Barnes finished with 20 points and Jakob Poeltl earned a double-double with 14 points and 11 boards.

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“I’ve always enjoyed playing against Scottie, so playing with him tonight, it’s cool,” said Barrett, who played against Barnes in high school before they reached the NBA. “I don’t think anybody stepped on anybody’s toes.

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“A lot of people had a good game tonight. That’s what we’re going to need.”

Donovan Mitchell led Cleveland (18-15) with 26 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Caris LeVert came off the bench to score 31 points.

Toronto sent forwards OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa as well as guard Malachi Flynn to the Knicks on Saturday for Barrett, Quickley, and a second-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

“It was a lot of love, man,” said Quickley of his first full day as a Raptor. “Toronto fans, they’re already special, just the way they’ve embraced us, me not being from here, they’ve embraced me, I appreciate them for that.”

A 13-2 Toronto run built an 18-point lead for the hosts in the second quarter. Mitchell hit an 18-foot jumper with two seconds left in the half to cut that lead to single digits, with Toronto carrying a 67-59 lead into intermission.

Barnes made a shot with 5:33 left in the third to reach the 3,000-point mark in his NBA career, the second youngest player in team history to hit the milestone (22 years, 153 days). Chris Bosh was 21 years, 291 days when he reached the milestone.

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Siakam scored 13 points in the third quarter as Toronto maintained a 98-91 lead.

After a quick 7-3 Cavaliers’ run to open the fourth, Mitchell intercepted a Barrett pass 2:27 into the quarter and passed to George Niang for the easy layup to pull Cleveland to within a point of the Raptors.

The teams traded points and the lead for most of the fourth quarter, until Siakam hit a turnaround jump shot with 3:33 left to play to give Toronto a 118-116 advantage.

After several turnovers by both teams, Mitchell hit a free throw with 2:28 to go. Boos rained down from the sold-out crowd of 19,800 as he missed his second free throw.

Fans had been quiet for most of the night, but the fourth’s roller-coaster score brought them to life. They cheered when Jarrett Allen made only one of his two free throws to tie it and cheered louder when Barnes laid it in at the other end for a 120-118 lead.

A pair of Cavaliers misses allowed the Raptors to wind down the clock, but Toronto also couldn’t score as the time ticked down. Barnes jumped up for a critical defensive rebound with 13 seconds to go and was immediately fouled.

He made one of his two free throws to extend the Raptors lead, but Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont., rebounded the second shot for a Cleveland timeout with 12.8 seconds left to tie it up.

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Allen was allowed to drive to the net for an uncontested layup and on the ensuing Toronto inbound Barrett was fouled. He hit both free throws to make it 123-120 for his hometown team.

“I was focused, I was locked in and try to come in here to try to help win, so anything I can do,” said Barrett.

Mitchell was fouled on the next Cavaliers inbound but could only make one free throw. Barnes was fouled again with 1.1 seconds left to play and he made one of his free throws for the game’s final score.

UP NEXT — The Raptors start a six-game road trip with a stop in Memphis on Wednesday against the Grizzlies (10-22).

The Cavaliers return home Wednesday to host the Washington Wizards (6-26).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 1, 2024.

&copy 2024 The Canadian Press

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