It’s an entirely new feeling for Cleveland basketball fans. Overjoyed by the team’s surprise victory Wednesday night over the Boston Celtics, the Cavalier faithful fell right back down following a 101-81 loss to the Toronto Raptors Friday night.
In the start of what could be many painful games on the road, Toronto conquered the helpless Cavs in nearly every single facet of the game. Most notably, the absence of both Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao left Cleveland without two of their top starters and most consistent performers. Filling in Mo’s spot, new point guard Ramon Sessions struggled to consistently set up the offense, and although the Raptors are also projected to be one of the worst team’s in the Eastern Conference, they easily took advantage in front of the home court advantage.
As our very own TD mentioned, this was just had the feel of an ugly game from the start. Just take a look at the starting lineup eventually fielded by Cavs head coach Byron Scott:
Ramon Sessions, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, J.J. Hickson, Ryan Hollins
Not a single player in that bunch has ever been consistently relied upon to produce offense for any NBA team, let alone one that is so used to perfection on the road. When you also consider that Samardo Samuels, Manny Harris and Joey Graham all also saw minutes, you can start to see how this was essentially just a rotation practice for Scott’s future plans.
Looking specifically at the game, the Raptors owned the Cavs on the board, produced offense essentially whenever they needed to, stopped any single Cleveland player from taking over and took control right at the start of the second half. When your leading scorer (Antawn Jamison) only has 13 points with two rebounds and two assists on nine shots off the bunch against this inconsistent Toronto team, you know that you are going to be in trouble.
Looking on down the line, the Raptors out-rebounded Cleveland 46-33, out-assisted them 24-15, shot 9.5% better from field goals and had five players with at least 13 points on the night. Rick pointed this out last night and so have many commentators, but it seems that many teams that used to be bullied by Cleveland over the past several years may just be waiting at the opportunity to conquer them this season.
Hollins helped in his first Cleveland start, but it’s unlikely Scott will be forced into this type of a situation any time soon. As Scott tweeted after the game, the team will need both Mo and Andy to play tonight to hopefully improve to 2-1, eliminating any doubt of a repeat performance. One of the leading culprits for the inefficiency and lack of offense was the new guard Sessions, who finished with only four points and four assists with five turnovers on 1-for-10 shooting.
For Cavalier fans, it is clear that this team was not going 82-0 throughout the 2010-2011 season. That’s the usual cliche statement to make after any first loss by an NBA team, but the fact of the matter is that this new Cleveland team will suffer through games like this nearly every week or two. Considering the absence of both Mo and Andy, the unusual high from the Boston win, pathetic rebounding and lack of any offensive flow, this was not too much of a surprise outcome at all.
Moving forward, this probably re-assures fans and the media that those 25-35 win estimates are the most likely for this year’s team. Not trying to many vague assumptions based on one ugly loss, but these new Cavaliers will certainly not be beating teams like Boston like they did the other night with any regularity. The next four opponents are generally favorable as well in Sacramento, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington, so it will be interesting to see how the squad recovers quickly.
Photo above via AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese