The Cleveland Cavaliers nearly overcame a 19-point deficit but ultimately fell 124-121 to the Toronto Raptors.
Caris LeVert had a poor shooting night in his previous game. But he responded big in Toronto by drilling 12-of-20 field goal attempts for a team-high 31 points tonight.
LeVert has been vital to the Cavaliers’ offense with Darius Garland on the sideline. A streaky scorer, tonight was some of the best basketball we can expect to see from Caris.
Sam Merill found his touch from deep after a brief detour. Merrill connected on 4-of-8 three-pointers tonight after shooting a combined 1-7 over his last two games.
Merrill’s confidence has been building all season. His ability to put a few cold shooting nights in the rearview mirror and rattle off some big shots tonight — including a handful of aggressive drives to the hoop — is a sign that Merrill is here to stay.
Clutch shooting has not been Cleveland’s strength this season. They are shooting just 43% from the floor in the clutch with a 7-11 record on the year.
Donovan Mitchell, their closer, is shooting 11-27 (40%) in the clutch this season, including 0-2 tonight. His shot selection hasn’t been perfect. Tonight, it was a difficult pull-up three-pointer when the Cavs trailed by only two points that might have been nice for Mitchell to have back.
All in all, the Cavaliers generated some okay looks down the stretch. A late, wide-open attempt from Isaac Okoro could have changed the entire dynamic of the game. But they call it a “make or miss” league for a reason.
Fun: Nobody likes a party pooper. After a thrilling comeback and tense final minutes, this game was ultimately decided by the biggest party foul of all — intentionally fouling while up by three points.
Cleveland had a chance to tie the game with a three-point shot. But a swift foul sent Mitchell to the free-throw line for two shots, instead.
Cavs opponents have 33 more free throw attempts in the last two games— Carter Rodriguez (@Carter_Shade) January 2, 2024
Brutal differentials to overcome.
The Cavs have done a poor job getting to the line over their last few games. It is a result of their lack of rim pressure. But in this instance, they would have rather played on and had an opportunity to force overtime.
This isn’t a bitter Cavs fan complaining about a loss. It’s just a basketball fan advocating for entertainment. Fouling up three is an anticlimactic way to win a game and the NBA should have fixed this problem long ago.