Toronto 104, Cleveland 96

Same shit, different year.

Before I get all ranty, I’ll point out that this is just one game and it’s way too early to draw any real conclusions about this team or any particular player. And yes, the Cavs losing isn’t the worst thing in the world, as this year is a rebuilding season. I get that and I agree with that. Hell, losing to a team like Toronto probably helps, those guys are lottery competition.

I don’t and won’t expect the Cavs to compete, let alone win, on a night-to-night basis. But they were facing the Toronto we-don’t-play-defense Raptors as their home opener. This game wasn’t a gimme (no games will be a gimme for this team) but it was certainly winnable. Seeing the poor defensive effort and stagnant offense was disheartening.

Did you know that last year the Cavs were the worst team at defending the three-point line? It wasn’t even close. The Cavs allowed opponents to shoot 41.1% from behind the arc last season, the second worst teams (Utah and Toronto tied) allowed 37.6%. On Monday night, Toronto made 9 of 21 from downtown for 42%. Not good.

But it wasn’t just treys. The Raptors finished the night 53% from the floor and had a whopping 35 assists on 42 field goals made. That’s fucking nuts. The Cavs got repeatedly beat on the high pick-and-roll and the help side D was non-existent. Every time the Cavs got it close, Toronto seemed to answer with a layup. It was frustrating, to say the least.

So turns out I still hate Moondog. That stupid dog scared the crap out of me by banging his drum right in my section… during a Cavalier free throw. Nice job, way to pay attention. But we know how I hate the ‘game day experience’; I think it takes away from the game and I don’t think it’s necessary (want fans to have a great ‘game day experience’? Field a winning basketball team). Short aside: over Christmas my cousin told me how he brought his 4-year son to the Cavs-Pistons preseason game and how much he loved it…. except for all the dancers and extra crap. It was just too much (“aw, dancers again?”). So, my research tells me that not only do cranky adults like myself, Terry Pluto and Joe Tait hate that crap, but so do little kids (sample size of one, related to me). Clearly, the people have spoken.

The big story of the night will be how Kyrie Irving stunk it up in his pro debut. And he kinda/sorta did. Irving finished with 6 points on 2-12 shooting, with 7 assists (good!) while going 1-5 from downtown (bad!). His shot wasn’t falling, guys weren’t finishing off of his passes (he caught both Anderson Varejao and Ryan Hollins by surprise) and he had a hard time defensively. I’m glad Irving started, but I can certainly see why Scott was hesitating on naming him the starter. Kyrie showed some flashes (I love love love LOVE his passing) but he never really looked comfortable.

On the flip side, Tristan Thompson has won over the home crowd. In just 17 minutes, Thompson finished with 14 points and 5 boards. Yes, his free throws will be an adventure (although he finished a respectable 6-8 from the stripe) and I’m scared to death when he catches the ball outside of 10 feet (but that can be said for too many of his teammates) but he’s very strong and he was aggressive. Thompson’s put-back with 10 minutes to play brought the Cavs to 82-78 and the crowd to their feet (Cleveland had trailed by as many as 15). Twas far and away the highlight of the game for me.

Then, for some reason Byron Scott decided Antawn Jamison needed to come back in. At the time, Jamison was 5-18 from the floor and a clear liability on the defensive end. Now, I like Coach Scott, but it’s stuff like this that drives me nuts. Jamison is out there chucking every chance he gets and getting killed on the defensive end and he subs in for the one kid working his ass off. Bah. Also, Samardo Samuels was a DNP-CD while Ryan Hollins was allowed on the court for a full 15 minutes.

However, I’m fine with Scott bringing Irving back for crunch time, even though Kyrie was struggling. Ramon Sessions had a great game (18 points, 6 assists, 4 boards) and was instrumental in the bench-fueled comeback, but Scott brought the starters back to finish the game. Which is fine, to a degree. Scott had Sessions and Daniel Gibson on the court together, so I don’t see why Irving and Ramon couldn’t share crunch time (defensively, Sessions/Irving is a wash compared to Sessions/Boobie).

And if you’re going to bring the rookie PG back in, why not leave the rookie PF on the court too? While I’m not too upset that Tristan didn’t get crunch time minutes, I am kinda peeved that we didn’t see Irving paired with Thompson at all. I also would’ve liked to see what Thompson and Varejao could do together. Yes, offensively it might be rough, but Thompson was usually paired with Ryan Hollins (0 points, 1 rebound in 15 baffling minutes), so it’s not like the it would’ve made a difference.  It might’ve also helped Kyrie to play with an athletic big who can finish at the rim…

Omri Casspi, you played? Casspi’s final tally: 21 minutes, 2 points, 0-4 FG, 2 assists, 1 rebound. Yikes. Gonna need more from the starting small forward position. If he’s not careful, it wouldn’t shock me to see Alonzo Gee (who nearly killed himself on a dunk attempt) take Casspi’s minutes. I’m not sure I’d say Gee played great, but he was certainly active, finishing with 13 points (5-7 FG), 3 boards, 3 assists, and 3 steals in his 28 minutes.

Also, Anderson Varejao (14 points, 10 boards) is still really good. Andy had his usual solid game. Defensively, he ‘showed’ on those high pick-and-rolls, which is fine (he’s quick enough to do it) but that left Cleveland’s only decent post defense/rebounder 20 feet from the rim. Having Varejao show on those high screens with the Jamison-Casspi-Parker trio protecting the rim is not good. Again, this is why I’d love to see Andy paired with Tristan (and I’m sure we will eventually. This is only one game, after all).

and finally….

Let the screwy schedule begin! The Cavs aren’t in too bad of shape schedule-wise early on. They next play Wednesday versus the Pistons in Detroit (probably a L), and follow with the Pacers in Indiana on Friday (almost definitely a L). They then return home to face the Nets on Sunday and the Bobcats on Tuesday (both of those are winnable, me thinks).

(I’m so happy basketball is back! No joke, I received as many “Happy return-of-the-NBA” texts as I did “Merry Christmas” texts on Sunday. Sounds about right).

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4 Responses to Toronto 104, Cleveland 96

  1. Pingback: While We’re Waiting… Browns Offensive, Irving Struggles and Judy a Red | WaitingForNextYear

  2. Pingback: Toronto Raptors Morning Coffee Dec 27 | Raptors Republic | ESPN TrueHoop's Toronto Raptors Blog

  3. _Believeland says:

    agree ^45 power… stuff…. And If Jamison get 3 blocks in a game will you shave off the #Monsterchops?

  4. Ion66 says:

    Under new coach Dwane Caey, the Raptors have been working hard to focus on the defensive side of the game, and it’s paying off so far. Hopefully between the new coaching and a few new players, they wont be immediately tagged as a team that plays no defence. I thought they played decent D against the Cavs, who may also have been expecting less of an effort (or succsess) on D as well. Once the Cavs rookies get in the groove, and they start to respect the Raps new system more, I think we’ll see some closer games later in the year.

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