Trent Jr.’s career night fuels scoring spree as Raptors crush Cavs

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Shot after shot, possession after possession, whether they operated in the halfcourt or used their defence to trigger their transition game, the Raptors were clinical.

Actually, it was unbelievable at how effortless and easy they were scoring.

In basketball, teams get on rolls, but this was more like a steamroller.

Saturday night’s 135-115 cakewalk over the host Cleveland Cavaliers must be quickly forgotten as the Raptors visit the Big Apple to play a rested Knicks team Sunday night.

The Cavs aren’t good, but were good enough to beat a Raptors team last month when more accomplished players suited up for Toronto.

Cleveland entered Saturday one-half game in arrears of the 11th-place Raptors.

What they showed in running the Cavs off their home court was how effort and execution will allow the Raptors to compete. They also showed how poor stretches continue to play out as Raptors allowed the Cavs to go on an 18-2 run in the third quarter.

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There was no way the Raptors could sustain their first-half display and not surprisingly the Cavs punched back in the third, a quarter that saw them outscore the visitors 29-13.

But this game would be won in the opening quarter when Toronto scored 47 points, capped off by a Yuta Watanabe three-pointer at the buzzer.

It would get cemented at halftime when the Raptors went into their locker room leading 87-54.

The 87 points were the most opening-half points in club history.

Toronto made 71% of its shots.

Gary Trent Jr. would lead the way, pouring in a career-high 44 points on 17-for-19 shooting in his 10th game as a Raptor.

Rookie Malachi Flynn posted his first double-double (20 points, 11 assists).

Pascal Siakam (rest), Kyle Lowry (foot) and Fred VanVleet (hip) weren’t available.

Siakam and Lowry are expected to play Sunday.

“First half we set the tone,’’ said Trent Jr. “We were locked in.”

“He caught fire super early and it never left,’’ said Flynn of Trent Jr. “Everyone played for each other. It was fun to be out there.”

NEW GUY AND NEW FREDDIE

The Khem Birch signing was made official by the Raptors just before tipoff and a few hours after the big Canadian from Montreal took to social media to thank the folks in Orlando for providing his shot in the NBA.

While he was expressing his gratitude, Birch was looking forward to his new chapter, which is expected to begin Sunday night when the Raptors are in New York to play the Knicks.

Birch played under Nurse with the Canadian national team.

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He has also competed against Nurse when the Magic hooked up with the Raptors in the opening round of the NBA playoffs two years ago.

“I like him,’’ said Nurse of the 6-foot-9 Birch. “We’ve seen him play good basketball against us. He could become a quality backup big man in our league.

“He has length, athleticism, shot blocking and rebounding. I’m excited to have him.”

“I’m lost for words on what the city of Orlando has meant to me & my family! Beyond grateful. I’m excited for the next chapter of my career with @raptors,” Birch wrote on Twitter.

Toronto’s bigs have been a big issue almost from opening night.

Chris Boucher can’t handle the load on his own, while Aron Baynes is best suited as the third big on a team.

Recent 10-day signing Freddie Gillespie made his debut Saturday on a day when the former G Leaguer had to under two COVID test.

Nurse has dubbed Gillespie as the “New Freddie.”

Gillespie played 18 minutes.

“He is interesting,’’ said Nurse. “He’s a really good screener and he was crushing people on screens over and over again. He really has strong hands. When the ball gets near him, he has big hands. He was good defensively on his rotations, inside and on the perimeter.”

NO REST FOR WEARY RAPS

Saturday began a hectic stretch for the Raptors, the first of four games in five nights.

DeAndre’ Bembry was back after serving a one-game suspension and started in the backcourt with Flynn.

He was very active defensively, recording three blocks in the game’s opening three minutes against the Cavs.

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Offensively, he was no slouch as Bembry drilled all four of his shots and had a plus-23 rating in 10 minutes.

After fielding the league-minimum eight players Thursday, the Raptors had 10 players available Saturday.

Rodney Hood (hip) returned and played 18 minutes.

Hood and Stanley Johnson were the only players to end the night with a minus rating for the Raptors.

BOUCHER BY THE NUMBERS

In Thursday’s loss to the Bulls, Boucher came close to posting a 40-20 game.

He ended by scoring a career-high 38 points and recording a career-high 19 rebounds.

No one expected a carry-over performance, but Boucher wasn’t needed against the Cavs as he went 4-for-11 from the field to score nine points and haul down two boards.

He did record four blocks as Boucher hit the century mark for the season.

Toronto would end the night by outrebounding the Cavs, 39-32.

Trent Jr. led the Raptors with seven rebounds.

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