TORONTO – A little over six minutes into Saturday’s Toronto Raptors game, Kelly Olynyk fulfilled a lifelong dream.
Things went downhill from there.
Olynyk, whose parents both worked for the Raptors before the family moved to Kamloops, B.C., debuted for his hometown team in a 119-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Olynyk finished with 11 points and six rebounds and said he will always remember the ovation he got from the sold-out Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800 when he checked into the game.
“Just gives you chills. Special, special moment,” said Olynyk, who captained Canada to a bronze medal at the FIBA World Cup in September. “Having the support and love of this whole country, it was evident.”
Olynyk and guard Ochai Agbaji were traded to Toronto by the Utah Jazz on Thursday, hours before the NBA’s trade deadline. Both came off the bench, as they only had a brief shootaround earlier Saturday to learn the Raptors’ offensive and defensive schemes.
“You don’t know really what’s going on on both ends of the floor. I think that was probably pretty evident in the first half,” laughed Olynyk. “The second half, we kind of found a little bit of rhythm and found like a few simple sets that everybody kind of knew.”
Scottie Barnes’s triple-double was wasted as Toronto (19-34) saw its modest two-game win streak end. Barnes finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, becoming the first Raptor to record three 20-point triple-doubles in a single season.
Barnes sees a lot of potential playing alongside Olynyk and Agbaji, who finished with eight points.
“It was new to them the way we play from the way Utah plays with the defensive principles and things like that, but we just got to learn from that and adjust,” said Barnes. “It’s just going to take some time.”
Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley both had double-doubles as Cleveland (35-16) earned its ninth consecutive win. Allen had 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Mobley added 17 points and 11 boards.
Donovan Mitchell had 15 points for the Cavaliers, who had eight players reach double digits in scoring.
“We passed the ball very well tonight,” said Allen. “Everybody was moving, everybody was contributing to having a great game.
Toronto was leading 16-13 when Olynyk entered the game, but Cleveland outscored the Raptors 17-8 in the final five minutes of the first, building a 30-24 lead.
“Once we started subbing in new guys, it was hard for them to know what we’re running, what we wanted to do defensively,” said Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic. “There were a lot of breakdowns, but that’s to be expected and now we’re going to have a shootaround, and do a little bit of work in preparation for San Antonio (on Monday).”
Agbaji laid it in with 17 seconds left in the half, but that only cut Cleveland’s lead to 67-47 after a dominant second from Mobley. He had eight points in the quarter, even as Barnes led all scorers in the period with 11.
Cleveland didn’t relent in the third, with Allen scoring six to help the visitors maintain their healthy lead. Rajakovic relied heavily on his reserves in the quarter with Bruce Brown, Olynyk and rookie Gradey Dick seeing significant playing time as Toronto searched for some kind of spark.
The Raptors never found their footing, with the Cavs taking a 95-73 lead into the final quarter.
With Cleveland still holding a 21-point lead with 2:30 left to play, both teams put out players from deep on their bench.
10-DAY DEALS — Guard-forward Justise Winslow and forward Mouhamadou Gueye were signed to 10-day contracts by the Raptors on Saturday. Winslow averaged 16.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 26.8 minutes with Raptors 905 this season. Gueye averaged 14.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 30.9 minutes for Toronto’s G-League affiliate.
UP NEXT — Toronto hosts the lowly San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
Cleveland welcomes the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2024.