TORONTO—As Fred VanVleet spoke to the scrum of media surrounding him, Jonas Valanciunas slipped behind the crowd and held up a paper sign he had made.
Valanciunas had crossed out the “52" he had written for DeMar DeRozan's franchise-best performance from earlier in the season and replaced it with "22” for VanVleet's night.
“Oh man, oh man, thanks JV,” VanVleet said with a laugh, taking the sign from Valanciunas.
“I'm going to throw this away.”
VanVleet came off the bench for a career-high 22 points, including 6-of-8 from three-point range, as the Raptors routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 133-99 last night.
Missing starters Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, Toronto head coach Dwane Casey told his reserves they would have to step up and focus on three-point shooting and keeping a fast tempo.
“I think that was one of our advantages tonight, especially the second unit, was playing it fast when we were able to get stops,” said VanVleet.
“Some of those "threes” go down and the lead gets bigger and bigger.
“One of our advantages is our youth and our speed and our fresh legs,” he added.
“We've got to take advantage of that.”
C.J. Miles scored 16 points, going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, as the Raptors (29-11) set a season-high with 18 three-pointers.
Toronto's big men benefited from the Raptors' shooting spreading the floor, with Valanciunas scoring 15 and pulling down 18 rebounds while Jakob Poeltl got 12 and 12.
Lowry was out for a second game with a bruised tailbone. He was hurt after a nasty fall in Toronto's 114-113 overtime win in Brooklyn on Monday night and also missed the Raptors' 90-89 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
Ibaka sat as he served a one-game suspension after throwing punches with Miami's James Johnson on Tuesday.
LeBron James had 26 points for Cleveland (26-15) and led all scorers in the game.
But the Cavaliers could not keep up with the play of Toronto's bench. In particular, starters J.R. Smith and Isaiah Thomas were ineffective.
The pair were a combined 2-of-20 shooting, with Smith being held scoreless.
It was the second of a tough three-game stretch for the Raptors, where they played the Southeast Division-leading Heat, the Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, and then the NBA champion Golden State Warriors this Saturday.
Although the win helped Toronto stay ahead of Cleveland in the standings, both Casey and all-star guard DeMar DeRozan said they didn't think the game was make-or-break for the Raptors' season.
“I'm sure the next time we play them, they are going to remember this game,” said DeRozan.
“It's going to be a whole different type of game and we have to be ready for that,” he warned.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Boston beat Philadelphia 114-103, the L.A. Clippers topped Sacramento 121-115, and the L.A. Lakers downed San Antonio 93-81.