Well, tonight was more of the same: Cavs play well for much of game, then give it away in the 4th. The Cavs started out like gangbusters, and played well for a while. But the Raptors matched them most of the way, and Alan Anderson (who?) came up with enough big plays for Toronto to pull it out. The Cavs featured some truly horrendous defense in this one, especially down the stretch.
- Even though they weren’t really matched up for most of the game, Tristan Thompson actually kind of outplayed Jonas Valanciunas. This made me very happy. Tristan was active as usual on the boards, grabbing seven offensive big ones. Even better, he shot 5-8 from the field for an efficient 10 points. It was nice to see TT playing so well against Valanciunas (looked like he was playing JV!), although the Lithuanian still showed great off-the-ball movement and a real ability to run on the break.
- Kyrie Irving is an otherworldly offensive talent, in case you forgot. 9-16 from the field for 23 points and 7 assists. He carved up the Toronto defense, and was the only reason we didn’t end the game down by 25.
- C.J. Miles continues to shoot well and play well. He has a ton of confidence right now and is looking great. Pretty much all the bench guys played well tonight, actually. Miles, Boobie, Zeller…hell, even Luke Walton threw a sick assist.
- Anderson Varejao took a big spill tonight, but got back up and had another all-star performance. 22 and 10. #VoteAndy.
- Dion Waiters had a solid first game back. He didn’t shoot particularly well from the field, but distributed the ball well and played in control. I know some people think C.J. Miles should’ve gotten the nod, but I’m glad Byron Scott started Dion. It’s always good to keep your rooks confident, and he had one hell of a dunk on a feed from Gee.
- Team defense, or lack thereof. The defensive effort here was pathetic, in short. In long, the Cavs didn’t close out on shooters, didn’t box anyone out, and consistently got confused on switches and traps, leading to several wide-open layups. There were two especially egregious plays in the fourth, back to back. Both times, Andy doubled a ball handler with Kyrie on the perimeter, leading to an easy pass to Amir Johnson in the high post, and then an easier past to a Raptor under the hoop for a layup. It was disappointing, to say the least, to see Andy mess up two plays in a row.
- A lot of people will be castigating Kyrie Irving for his defensive performance against Toronto, especially against Jose Calderon, who dropped a wildly efficient 23. But while I’ve never been one to try to defend Kyrie’s defensive effort, I didn’t think he was all that bad tonight. Calderon has been scorching recently, and playing well against everyone. Kyrie tried the whole game, at least, and I loved his tight man coverage in the last minute and a half, when the game was well out of reach. It was a little too late, but I appreciate that kind of stuff.
- Alan Anderson straight lit us up, and I’m still not sure how. It’s tempting to go ahead and blame it on the guys defending him (Gee and Waiters, mostly), but he simply played out of his mind. 5-7 on three pointers? Come on. Also, I cannot stand how John Lucas plays basketball. He’s a less fun Nate Robinson: a more dirty player who can’t jump as high. Also, 6-7 shooting for Amir Johnson, for 17 points with 6 boards and 5 assists? You know you’re in trouble when Amir Johnson is putting up Aaron Afflalo stat lines.
- Byron Scott’s rotations continue to amaze and befuddle me. Mostly, his insistence on keeping Kyrie out of the first five or so minutes of the 4th quarter, no matter the game situation. I’m not going to advocate for playing our point guard 45 minutes a game, but there are ways to stagger the minutes of our best player so that he’s in when we need him. Recently a recurring phenomenon has cropped up. It’s a close game into the 4th, Kyrie isn’t out there, the Cavs go down by 12, and we rely on Kyrie heroics. It just simply is not a winning formula.
The Cavs shot 51% from the field, 44% from three, and lost. That’s called awful defense, folks. It’s another loss, but hey- tonight was a good time. I think Kyrie’s better with a mask.