Bargnani, Raptors crush Cavaliers

Toronto Raptors' Reggie Evans battles for a rebound against Cleveland Cavaliers' Daniel Gibson....

Toronto Raptors' Reggie Evans battles for a rebound against Cleveland Cavaliers' Daniel Gibson. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:02 PM ET

It was like the Raptors were looking at themselves in a mirror.

The only difference was the Raptors were at full strength.

The Cleveland Cavaliers arrived in Toronto without point guard Mo Williams and centre Anderson Varejao.

Williams was with family following the death of his father-in-law while Varejao stayed back in Cleveland to be with his father who is undergoing heart surgery.

Both teams are in their first seasons having lost the respective faces of their franchise. Neither were replaced by an equal talent leaving both the Cavs and Raptors trying to get more out of less.

Friday night the Raptors got back on even terms in the conference with the Cavs thanks to an 101-81 cakewalk.

Andrea Bargnani again led the charge with a dozen points in the first half on his way to a game-high 20, but this one had contributors from all quarters of the roster.

But it was the third quarter where the Raps broke it open with a 31-17 advantage.

The run was sparked by Linas Kleiza, who thoroughly dominating an outsized Jamario Moon scoring almost at will.

At the conclusion of the quarter, Reggie Evans stood at centre court and urged the spotty but vociferous crowd to get into it.

Evans could have saved the energy as the crowd was already amped up having enjoyed the best 12 minutes of the Raptors season to date. Still, you could hardly blame the popular big man. Not only had he reached double digits in the rebounding department for a second straight game, but had finally broken the goose egg in the scoring department getting a layup to fall about midway through the quarter. At that point his line for the season read: Rebounds 27, points 2.

Not only was Kleiza on fire with 13 in the quarter but DeRozan was driving the lane with the kind of aggressiveness that can make an entire coaching staff smile.

The defence was also there with the Cavs converting just 6-of-21 shots in the quarter to drop the night’s shooting percentage to 34%.

In the season opener the Raptors second unit, which had been such a strength in the pre-season, was held down with the exception of Leandro Barbosa. Friday night Sonny Weems, Barbosa, Amir Johnson and David Andersen all took turns contributing to the scoring .

By the half the Raptors had spread the scoring around nicely, something they are going to have to do to be successful in the post-Bosh era.

Through 24 minutes five different Raptors were on the board with six points, including reserves Barbosa and Johnson.

Johnson was a perfect 3-for-3 after an opening night to forget in which he managed just two points in 121/2 minutes of play while getting four quick fouls.

The Cavs opened a few eyes in their season opener on Wednesday when they got the Boston Celtics a night after a win over Miami in their own season opener and sent the Celtics home with a 95-87 loss.

The Cavs did it without Williams, too.

According to former Raptor Anthony Parker it was a perfect example of what a team can do when they are unselfish, trusting of one another and working together as one.

Celtics centre Kevin Garnett power forward saw it too.

“I think they value that their true strength is playing together. They don’t have that one or two go-to guys, but they do play well together. When you don’t match that, you find yourself in difficulty,” Garnett said.

That is exactly the compliment the Raptors are hoping to leave on their opponent’s lips this season and really the only way they can be competitive.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca’


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