Following a heartbreaker against Chicago the night before, Toronto missed yet another opportunity to beat a top Eastern Conference team, falling 122-100 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. With DeMarre Carroll sitting this one out due to a sore right knee, James Johnson drew the start. Despite playing from behind or tied from the 10:14 mark of the opening quarter, the Raptors played the Cavs tight for the first half before letting the game get away from them following the break.
With the exception of Patrick Patterson's stellar opening quarter, the first half went mainly as expected. Playing without lead defender Carroll, the Toronto defense was not pretty, allowing the Cavs to shoot over 54 percent from the field in the half, along with a perfect 11 for 11 from the free throw line. To be fair however, neither team showed much defensive prowess in the opening half. Led by 14 apiece from DeRozan and Lowry, the Raptors were allowed to shoot a whopping 60 percent from the field, and a clean 50 percent from 3-point range. Defense aside, the Raptors showed promise by playing with decisiveness and aggression on the offensive end, and entered halftime down by two at 58-56.
Although the Raptors' collapse was not immediate, the opening sequences perhaps foreshadowed the rest of the game: Kevin Love hit consecutive jumpers, while James Johnson shot an airball. While the Raptors continued to play with good ball movement, but struggled to score as the quarter went on. While the Raptors kept giving up points with plays like a defensive 3 in the key on Jonas, and offensive goaltending calls on both Jonas and Biyombo, the Cavs continued to get clean looks. Blame the tired legs, but when Matthew Dellavedova is getting into the paint at will, you know you have a problem.
The game got away from the Raptors in the fourth quarter, which is that much more disappointing when considering that LeBron James did not play a single minute. Led by Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers scored at will while the Raptors wilted. Unfortunately for Toronto, December DeMar disappeared in the fourth, scoring a single point in the entire frame. Following a Valanciunus dunk at the 9:47 mark, the Raptors went scoreless for almost five minutes. In that span, a seven point deficit turned into 18, and that was the game. Lowry finished with 23 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting, and Patterson scored 15 points on eight shots, but grabbed only one rebound. Ultimately, although the Raptors shot almost 50 percent for the game, they're not going to win many games when allowing the opposing team to score 122 points on over 55 percent from the field.
- Perhaps it's because we've been spoiled by his consistent greatness for years, but I can see why more and more skeptics are accusing LeBron of regression. A line of 20 points, two rebounds and seven assists on 7-of-11 shooting in three quarters is nothing to scoff at. That said, based on the ever imperfect eye test, Lebron looks human on the court. While power dunks out of the open court and perfectly executed pick and rolls may suggest otherwise, King James seldom blows by or goes through defenders in the way that we've become accustomed to seeing. Another example? Perhaps its a way of conserving energy, but with both Lowry and DeRozan having strong games, Lebron spent much of his time guarding Patrick Patterson. Am I the only one who was surprised to see him guarding the 4th or 5th option on the court?
- I have to admit that I was a skeptic of the Bismack Biyombo signing. With my dual-citizenship of fandom with the Dallas Mavericks, I had to suffer through years of Erick "Brickhands" Dampier and just did not have much optimism for an undersized centre who offered nothing on the offensive end. That said, I've been converted. Through a combination of making his free throws, hard rolls to the basket, and battling on the offensive glass, Biyombo has found a way to contribute on the offensive end while being the only rim protector on the team. I didn't even mind his aforementioned offensive goaltending because I liked seeing the aggression. Despite all this, Biyombo's lack of comfort outside of the paint is a cause for concern. Smart teams like Cleveland, especially come playoff time, will find ways to make him a liability. One example of this was when Cleveland ignored Bismack following his screen for DeRozan, and doubled DeMar forcing an open court turnover.
- A lot was made this summer about the possibility of Patrick Patterson the starter. With the emergence of Luis Scola, and the lack of growth from 2Pat, he continues to be nothing more than a rotation big man for this team. One thing that I've noticed is that Patterson is too hesitant to be a feared three point shooter. 2Pat wont let it fly unless he's wide open, and I mean no-one-is-even-close-enough-to-run-at-him type of wide open. Unfortunately for the Raptors, plays that end with Patterson putting the ball on the floor from the three point line often don't end well, and it's something that he does too frequently
- Fun observation: At half, the Toronto broadcast showed the keys of the game, one of which was something like "Transition and Half-Court Baskets." So in other words, one of the keys to winning the game is scoring more points than the other team? Cool.
What did you guys think of the game?