Raps impress in win

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

TORONTO - It wasn’t a work of art, but expect many Raptors games this season — win or lose — to be quite a bit like Friday night’s 101-81 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

OK, at least they’ll be like the early going, before the Raptors blitzed the Cavs into submission with a monstrous third quarter that stretched an eight-point advantage to 22.

Early on, it was all grit and defensive effort for the home side making up for some spotty shooting.

Toronto’s defence was outstanding in the first half.

The Raptors swarmed the passing lanes, giving Cleveland fits and leading to numerous turnovers.

Through two games, the Raptors have displayed a passion to defend not seen in these parts in many years.

After three quarters, the Cavs were sitting at 33.9% shooting and finished up at 38.1%, while the Raptors recovered from a 1-for-6 start to get up to 47.6% shooting on the evening.

Minus all-defence second-teamer Anderson Varejao, Cleveland’s strong defence was a shadow of its usual self.

Raptors swingman Sonny Weems admitted this squad has taken a different approach to defending.

“That’s what we focused on all summer. Defence, defence, defence, that’s what coach has been preaching,” Weems said.

“Last year we didn’t, but this year we bought into it and you could see that on the court.”

A subdued Cavs head coach Byron Scott — subdued, he said, only because he let his team have it in the locker-room before meeting with the media — refused to make any excuses.

“It’s very simple, if we allow a team to shoot 47% and get 26 fastbreak points and outrebound us by 14-15, we’re going to lose a lot of games,” Scott said.

“We just seemed like the fat cats and they just seemed like a team that was really trying to get a win. That’s what it looked like to me. That we won the other day (against Boston) and they lost. You could tell the team that really wanted to win tonight and that was them. I think they wanted it a whole lot more than we did.”

Toronto had a 46-38 lead at the half but should have been up by more.

A bad pass by Jarrett Jack on a three-on-one led to a three-point play by Ramon Sessions shortly before the half ended.

Hedo Turkoglu not bothering to bend his knees or rotate while in Toronto and Chris Bosh’s focus on only one end of the floor were major reasons why the team struggled defensively last season, but it’s still shocking to see the change in this year’s edition.

It appears the injury absence of Reggie Evans last season really might have been the big deal general manager Bryan Colangelo said it was.

Evans was dynamic for the third straight contest, chipping in a game-high 14 rebounds in 27 rebounds and holding Cleveland’s front court in check.

Evans showed off his hustle by getting a hand up on a first-quarter J.J. Hickson jumper from the top of the key, before beating everybody back into the paint for the rebound on the errant shot.

Evans registered his first regular-season, back-to-back double-digit rebounding games since March of 2008.

Missing the point?

Point guard is becoming an early problem for the Raptors.

Jose Calderon’s shooting touch has completely abandoned him and Jarret Jack’s decision-making has taken a noticeable turn for the worse.

Jack hit only 1-of-8 shots and had five turnovers to just four assists.

Calderon’s shooting slump continues.

The career 49.5% shooter shot a dismal 0-for-5 after opening the season 2-for-8 and shooting 15-for-46 (33%) in the pre-season.

Calderon did dish out seven assists to his two turnovers.

The guard is happy his maligned defence is coming around — he helped hold Cleveland starter Sessions to 1-for-10 shooting, but wants to see improvement at the other end.

“Now I am feeling great and I can do more, but now I have to do both things, defence and offence,” Calderon said.

Bargnani update

Andrea Bargnani talked about how early-season fatigue threw him off in the first game, and he didn’t seem to have his legs Friday either.

Bargnani was short on an early shot and then airballed a three — a rare occurrence for the stellar outside shooter.

He was later short on another three, but still managed 12 points in the half on 4-for-9 shooting and finished with 20 but just one rebound.

Unselfish Raptors

Evans has mentioned the need for his teammates to try to make extra passes in order to get better shots.

The Raptors seemed to respond, with four assists on the first six made baskets and 13 on the first 19.

Good seats available

After selling out opening night, the Air Canada Centre seemed about a third empty.

The red and gold sections, in particular, were noticeably barren.

It has been many seasons since a Raptors-Cavs matchup was not played in front of a packed ACC house.

Of course, the Cavs had a halfway-decent player named LeBron James for seven years that most basketball fans enjoyed coming to see.

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