Game Recap: Raptors 104, Cavs 96

December 26th, 2011 by Colin McGowan

The Cavs opened the season at home against the Toronto Raptors, losing 104-96. Down 10 at half after an unimpressive display, the Cavaliers narrowed the Raptors’ lead in the third quarter, but failed to execute on both ends of the floor in the fourth, allowing the Toronto wings too many open jumpers and settling for contested shots on the offensive end.

— Kyrie Irving looked lost. I’m not going to press the panic button on Irving’s future after one poor performance, but he did a lot of things wrong in this game. He helped too far off of Jose Calderon in the first half, which led to a handful of relatively uncontested threes for the Spaniard, and he’s still figuring out how to defend the pick and roll. On offense, he failed to consistently drive past Calderon (who, in polite terms, is a sub-par defender), and when he did get to the rim, the Toronto bigs collapsed on him and his layup attempts were blocked. He didn’t play as many minutes in the second half as he did in the first, which was probably for the best, since the Cavs had a legitimate shot at winning the game, and Irving wasn’t helping the cause.

— In contrast to Irving, Ramon Sessions was the best Cavalier on the floor tonight. He had everything working on offense. He was slashing to the hoop and laying the ball in with both hands, finding open players in the paint, and even hitting a couple of three-pointers. I don’t think Byron Scott will pull the plug on the Irving-as-starter experiment after one game, but it will be interesting to see what happens if Sessions outplays Irving for the first few weeks of the season. I actually think, even if Sessions is the better player, that he’s such a perfect fit as a bench scorer that I would use him like the Cavaliers used to use Andy Varejao during the Lebron Era: bring him off the bench some six minutes into the game, and if he gives the team a spark, keep him in as long as he’s playing well.

— Tristan Thompson looked good. He played a game that lined up with his scouting report rather perfectly. TT worked very hard on both ends of the floor, over-helped on defense (he’ll learn), pulled down two offensive boards, looked supremely athletic, clunked his free throws, and flushed the ball with authority when given the chance. What I liked best about Thompson’s game tonight was his decisiveness when he caught the ball. He received the pass and went into his move immediately. He’s so athletic that, when he decided quickly what he was going to do with he ball once he got it, the Toronto defenders had a tough time staying in front of him as he moved toward the rim. Really solid debut from the former Longhorn.

— Antawn Jamison: 15 points on 6-20 shooting. And no, his defense wasn’t good either.

— Though, to be fair, almost every Cavalier’s defense was awful in this one. The Raps shot 9-21 from beyond the arc and 53% from the field. The guards weren’t able to stay in front of Toronto’s perimeter players, and the help on penetration often came late. You can probably chalk the late help up to rust—these guys haven’t played with each other for very long, and communication is crucial to good defense—but there were some Jamisonian closeouts on open Raptor shooters, especially in the second half.

The Cavs travel to Detroit, with whom they split two close preseason games, on Wednesday. In the meantime, if you see Antawn Jamison, please do me a favor and close a door on his wrist. Not, like, to the point where there’s tendon damage or he experiences severe pain, but enough that if he takes more than twelve shots a game, it gets really sore and he has to sit down for twenty minutes to ice it.

The perfect season is dead. 0-66 is still in play. Until next time.