While the Cavaliers and their front office were pushing the recent life-changing opportunity for Ted Williams, the man with the “golden radio voice,” their opponent decided to push the basketball and, ultimately, the score.
Despite all of the good things the Cavaliers did on Wednesday, from offering a homeless man an opportunity for redemption to shooting 51 percent from the floor and moving the ball with ease, it was all erased with a considerable lack of defense that allowed the Toronto Raptors to win the contest, 120-105.
“Every time I think we’re taking a step forward, we take two steps back, especially on the defensive end,” said Cavs head coach Byron Scott. “We just have to figure out a way, every single night, to have that type of effort that I know we’re capable of. Like I told the guys, we’re going to keep working. That’s the bottom line.”
The Raptors were on their second night of a back-to-back stint, on the road, and missing several key contributors. The Cavaliers dished out 28 assists and shot 82 percent from the free throw line. Scoring a season-high 38 points in the first quarter, and compiled 60 points in the first half, leading the game by as many as 15 points at one stretch.
Unfortunately, they also allowed plenty of season highs on the defense end as Toronto point guard Jose Calderon handed out a season-high 17 assists, Leandro Barbosa tied a season-high with 22 points off of the bench, and Julian Wright – averaging 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per night on the season – tallied a season-high 15 points on 78 percent shooting, a season-high nine rebounds and a season-high five assists in 31 minutes.
The Raptors came into the evening shooting an NBA-worst 32 percent from three-point range. Through 48 minutes against the Cavaliers, they turned into the Orlando Magic by shooting 50 percent (9-of-18) behind the arc. And if that was not enough of a defensive lapse, the Raptors outscored the Cavaliers 62-28 in the paint despite having a center who prefers to play away from the basket.
If you ask Byron Scott, its not a lack of talent that provides a gap in the score, but a lack of pride and aggression over a full 48 minutes.
“We’re not doing a real good job of running guys off the line, but the biggest thing, we have what we call “C-fense” and containment is one of the biggest things in there,” said Scott. “When you get beat off the first or second dribble, number one, it’s very hard to have good help side defense there. It goes back to individuals being a little bit more aggressive defensively and taking more pride. That’s all.
“We just have to take more pride in our individual defense and we have to do a better job. Simple as that. It’s not rocket science…It’s just guys being a little bit more aggressive, guys having more pride on the defensive end to make sure when my man has the ball, I’m going to guard him to the best of my ability…we knew from day one it was going to be a progress of steps that we have to take and every time I think we take a step to get better, we always take a step back. We have to get to a point for the rest of the season where the steps continue to be forward and not backwards.”
As the 105 points would hint, several Cavaliers had solid offensive games. Antawn Jamison followed up his 35-point night against the Mavericks with a game-high 32 points on Wednesday. Ramon Sessions continued his excellent all-around play with 16 points, five rebounds, six assists and a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line.
Elias tells us that Sessions is also the first Cavs bench player to shoot at least 12-12 from the charity stripe since Dec. 21, 1997 when Derek Anderson shot a perfect 16-16. Over his last five games, Sessions is averaging 16.4 points on 26-47 (.553) shooting, 5.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 28.6 minutes per game.
The Cavaliers will practice on Thursday, hopefully all players will be in attendance. They will then embark on a five-game road swing, returning to Quicken Loans Arena on January 19th. Losers of eight straight games, the Cavaliers (8-27) are entering a place of desperation when it comes to searching for a win.