Raps take down Cavs 135-115 on the road as Trent Jr. erupts for 44 points and career-highs abound

by Holly MacKenzie

It was a night for setting records. Franchise records and career-highs alike were set on Saturday as the Toronto Raptors took down the Cleveland Cavaliers in a dominant 135-115 road win behind Gary Trent Jr.’s 44-point explosion.

Even more impressive, the victory came without the team’s top three scorers.

“Next man up,” Trent said during his walk-off interview. “Everybody came ready to compete. Everybody came locked in. It’s great to get on the winning track and to get a win on the road.”

To say that Trent was on fire would be understating the shooting performance he put on for the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland on Saturday night. Trent had 25 points by halftime. He tied the 31-point career-high he set just 10 days ago, against the Oklahoma City Thunder, with 10:48 to go in the third quarter. The 44 points he finished the night with came on a ridiculous 17-for-19 field goals, including 7-for-9 three-point field goals. 

“He caught fire super early and it never left,” Malachi Flynn said. “When a guy is that hot, you just try to give him the ball and then stuff for everybody else gets easier. I think Gary did a good job at not forcing too much, I don't think he forced at all, honestly. We did a good job of continuing to look for his shot, but at the same time, continuing to play as a team.”

Via Joseph Casciaro, of The Score, this is just the third time in NBA history that a player has scored 44 points while shooting better than 89 percent from the floor with Trent joining Jerry West (1967) and Mike Woodson (1983).

“Probably would have been high school, the last time I did that,” Trent said of his night.

Trent wasn't the only Raptor to set a career-high on Saturday. Flynn continued to take advantage of his increased playing time with Lowry and VanVleet sidelined, and the rookie point guard set career-highs in points and assists as he finished with 20 points and 11 assists in the win. Yuta Watanabe also had a career night, coming off the bench to score a career-high 14 points, including a three to beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter to give Toronto a 47-26 lead after one.

“He was really good,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said of Watanabe. “A career-high tonight, it’s really good to see. He’s really, really good defensively. His hustle plays are always good, and they rub off on others. [I’m] happy to see him progressing and hopefully I can keep finding more minutes for him out there on the court.”

In addition to Watanabe’s increased minutes of late, Flynn has started for the Raptors in the previous two games with Lowry and VanVleet out. Getting to have extended game time reps with his teammates has paid off for Flynn, who is looking more comfortable with each game.

“It’s been good,” Flynn said. “It’s been a great opportunity for me to really play a lot of minutes, play through some mistakes, and continue to learn the game at this level. It’s been a little bit of a learning process, but just trying to get better game by game. Everybody has been helping me along the way. It’s been good.”

Like a true point guard, on a night where he recorded career-highs in points and assists, Flynn said he was most happy with his 11 assists.

“Guys were making shots,” he said. “I was trying to get everybody involved. I think the whole game, everybody was just playing for each other and moving the ball. It was fun to be out there.” 

Saturday's game also marked the first career-NBA points for Freddie Gillespie, who signed a 10-day contract with the Raptors on Thursday. Gillespie logged 18 minutes against Cleveland and finished with six points, four rebounds, an assist, a block and three steals. Flynn told reporters after the game that Nurse had captured the game ball for him and presented it to him after the game, in recognition of his first NBA points.

After a wild first half, the Cavaliers came out hoping to turn things around in the second half. Even after outscoring Toronto 29-13 in the third quarter, they went into the fourth trailing 100-83. Despite Cleveland’s best efforts, the Raptors led by double figures throughout the final frame.

While Raptors players in and out of uniform were having fun on Saturday, their focus is now shifted to Sunday, where they will face the New York Knicks in a back-to-back. Though Trent just dropped 44-points, the 22-year-old is guard already locked in on the next challenge.

“My upbringing,” Trent said of where he gets his mindset to always keep pushing. “My work ethic. My approach to the game. If I'm working out, if I’m training, I'm doing all of my drills at 100 percent speed, as in game speed, so I can stay locked in, all of the time. As a kid growing up, [my dad] always told me to keep my foot on the gas no matter what.”

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