Raptors Look Good In Last Regular Season Game; Champion Cavs? Not So Much

They staggered to the finish line looking nothing like champions.
It’s time for the Cavaliers to get up. It’s playoff time.
LeBron James watched in street clothes as Jonas Valanciunas dropped his first career 3-pointer and the Toronto Raptors closed the regular season with a 98-83 win on Wednesday night over Cleveland, which sat James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love so they’re playoff ready.
The past few weeks have been a challenging stretch for the Cavs, who closed the regular season going 10-14 since March 1. They head into the post-season looking very vulnerable.
But while the crown appears shaky, the Cavs, who dropped their last four and the No. 1 seed in the East, feel like they can defend it.
“I feel very confident that we’ve got a good run in us,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think we’re good.”
Norman Powell scored 25 points as the Raptors beat the Cavs for the first time in four tries this season and gave the defending champions something to think about if they meet in the post-season. Cleveland took Toronto down in six games in last year’s Eastern Conference finals.
Although there was still a chance to get the top seed, the Cavs put more value on rest and sat James, Irving and Love, who will be fresh for Saturday’s Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers.
Toronto will open at home against Milwaukee on Saturday. The Raptors have higher expectations this spring, and Lowry is eager to get started.
“It’s a new year and we’ve moved on to Milwaukee,” he said. “Honestly, we can’t worry about anything that happened before or in last season’s playoffs. This is a heck of a time.”
The Raptors, too, chose to keep legs fresh as All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan (flu-like symptoms) and Serge Ibaka watched.
This game looked more like a preseason exhibition than a matchup between two of the league’s top teams. Both Toronto coach Dwane Casey and Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue opted to get players off their feet and played reserves after halftime.
The biggest highlight was Valanciunas’ long shot.
Playing in his 363rd career game, the 7-foot Lithuanian caught a pass and transition and stepped behind the line before knocking down just his second 3-point attempt. He backpedaled on defence and raised his arms in triumph as his teammates celebrated as if he had just hit a game-winner.
“I wanted to smile, but I knew we had a long way to go in the game,” Casey said.
Source: Sportsnet/Associated Press

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