Hopefully the flu-bug finally exited Cleveland, as the Cavs bring a full-squad to Toronto, trying to initiate a new winning streak against a Raptors team lacking Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani.
The team again started in a hole, this time 6 to 9, as Zeller and Gee used the first seven plays. Eventually, Waiters found a rhythm and drained three jumpers, one of which involved a lovely corner spot-up off a Kyrie drive & kick. As the starters trickled to the bench, the lead sat at 19 to 15. In a sequence becoming very common, Livingston found Speights with a no-look pass, followed soon thereafter by a blind-dime from Luke to Mo. The quarter ended with Cleveland extending the margin to 27 – 20.
Ellington posted-up and faded-away for two quick buckets over 5′ – 11″ John Lucas III, then snagged a steal to unfurl a fast-break dunk, and CJ Miles splashed an open three. Using a successful set from last night, the Livingston to Walton pick-and-roll got Luke the ball with the defense moving, allowing a cutting Speights an up-close look at he basket. His made-free throw extended the Herculoidian reign of terror to an eleven point margin. The first-string plus Miles continued the run, as CJ drilled 4 threes on the quarter, and a devastating Kyrie isolation spin-move rose the lead to seventeen, at 50 to 33. Things descended from there though; Toronto dominated the boards, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the closing minutes of the quarter. Combined with a few other defensive breakdowns, the Raptors narrowed the gap to 55 – 46 at the break.
The second half started ugly; ten fouls in the first five minutes, including a defensive three-seconds and a tech. It was disjointed, unpleasant basketball, though the Cavs maintained solid scoreboard separation. Then, play really unravelled. Waiters missed two free throws and four jumpers, the bench could not generate much, and uhhhh…Kyrie hurt his shoulder. Jonas Valanciunas body-checked him, sending the young Cav sprawling. After rolling around for a while, he lumbered up, shot his free throws one-handed, and wasn’t seen again for the evening. Following the injury, the Raptors closed the quarter 1o to 1, finishing a thirty-three point period, leading by five.
Unfortunately, the cast-offs forming the bench can’t beat everyone all the time. The early portion of the fourth quarter matched the end of the third, as a Landry Fields basket forced a Cavalier timeout, trailing by eight. Then, Dion Waiters recovered from his flu. He netted a layup off a drive, and followed that with another paint-foray resulting in free throws for Tristan. Next time down, two free throws for himself, then a high-arching three when his man went under a pick. Eventually, a tough finish where he utilized his body to fend off Valanciunas. Finally, a sweet, euro-stepping attack netted his eleventh point in four minutes, and tied the game at 94. On the ensuing possession, Toronto turned it over, giving Cleveland a chance to regain the lead. With eighty seconds remaining, Dion again drove and got fouled, making one of two. The teams traded misses, until Toronto scored, again wrestling the advantage away. On the next possession, with the stakes high, Livingston pulled-up for a twelve-footer. It looked good, hitting the rim once, twice, three, four, five times…and rattling out! Then Kyle Lowry drains a ridiculous fadeaway eighteen-footer. Curse-words!!! Facing a three point deficit, and after wasting six-seconds with an errant pass, Waiters was intentionally fouled with five-seconds to go. Circumstances were dire, needing Waiters to hit both, or if not, Cleveland grabs the board. The team did neither, and the Raptors win by four.
Well, that’s a tough road loss. Everything was clicking for the first 21 minutes, until a 53 to 28 Toronto run over the next 19 minutes, when nothing was clicking. Waiters-fueled heroics nearly earned victory, but his missed free throws hurt the cause. Kyrie’s shoulder is probably the biggest news from the game; reports say, “shoulder contusion, to be re-evaluated on Monday”. Hopefully, his wing is OK. Seven injuries in three seasons does get nerve-racking. We will see how much Kyrie plays over the final nineteen games.
Onto some bullets:
- Waiters hit three early jumpers, then decided to return to his style of play from December. He shot 0 for 6 in quarters two and three, consisting of five errant jump shots. Suddenly, in the fourth quarter, the switc flipped, and his resurgent aggressiveness provided thirteen points and almost spurred a come-from-behind victory. Keep attacking, Dion! And next time hit those freebies!! He finished with team-leading 21 points on 50% true shooting, with 2 assists and only 1 turnover.
- Tristan was home in Canada, and his mother attended the game. He provided a highlight with a monstrous left-handed slam in the first quarter, and also hit a sweet, face-up, sixteen foot, right-handed, push-shot off the dribble. Posting a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards, he didn’t get many calls and netted only 43% true shooting.
- Tyler Zeller flashed some redeeming moments; a pump-fake and drive for a layup; a swished 14-footer; a help-side block swatted into the stands; another drawn charge; and a couple of tough, physical rebounds. Two turnovers early in the fourth quarter killed burgeoning momentum, but his 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists in 25 minutes provided generally positive play. He finished as one of three Cavs that were +.
- Are Shaun Livingston and Luke Walton brothers from different mothers? Do they play pick-up ball at the Y together in the summer? Maybe their off-season is spent touring the country impersonating old people, hiding their identities while they destroy all-comers at local playgrounds…maybe no makeup is needed. They are fun to watch, with tonight including a swooping, underhand windmill assist from Shaun to Luke. Walton returned the favor a few possessions later, setting the table for an easy Livingston finish. Since playing together in Cleveland, the two combine for 192 assists and 60 turnovers.
- How was Wayne Ellington never anyone before the trade to the Cavs? I know Tom loves Ellington’s play and has certainly talked along these lines before, but in four seasons, Ellington never reached double-digit PER. Now, in 20 games in Cleveland, he sports a nifty 16. In addition to the post fade-aways, he blasted into the paint in isolation to find Speights for a dunk. In 19 minutes, his line totaled 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers and 54% true shooting. Is his fairy-tale going to end, or has he finally found the right opportunity?
- Six Raptors scored between eleven and seventeen points. Amir Johnson finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds. Terrence Ross scored 14, thanks to twice evading a meandering Cavalier defender to hit widen open threes. He also finished his own tip-in after missing a crazy, 360 lay-up. Valanciunas looked strong, posting 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 0 turnovers on 60% true shooting. And of course, Alan Anderson followed the 17 he scored against Cleveland in January, with 18 tonight.
- And the Lakers won!!! Did you think those words would ever be followed by exclamation points on a non-Lakers blog? With the victory, and Utah’s loss last night, LA currently sits as the West’s 8th seed. As of today, Cleveland stands positioned to own the 4th, 15th, 32nd and 34th picks in the 2013 draft. With Luke Walton’s resurgence, and hopefully a decent first rounder in 2013 added to the 2012 pick, the Sessions trade is looking pretty nice.