The Cavaliers are banged up and it’s showing. They’ve now accumulated three consecutive losses since the trade deadline and there’s still not set date for the return of CJ Miles, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao. Every team the Cavaliers will face in March is either in the playoffs or sitting just barely outside them. These games are only going to get tougher for.
This particular loss to the Raptors at home Tuesday night hurt for a host of reasons. The Cavs came out shooting all sorts of blanks in the opening quarter and it looked as if the offensive woes from the last few games were going to doom the Cavs to a blowout defeat. They managed to minimize the damage of what looked like a poor second quarter and headed into half shockingly, to anyone watching, only down by six. An 11 point third quarter from Kyrie Irving pushed the Cavs back into the lead to start the fourth, but some questionable calls and sublime shot making from the Raptors proved to be too much for the shorthanded Wine and Gold as they fell 99-93.
Let’s go to the numbers:
- 14 Consecutive Missed Shots – The Cavaliers miraculously missed 14 consecutive shots at one point in a stretch that started near the end of the first quarter and carried over into the second. It was a dark drought for any Cavs fan watching to endure full of comical Alonzo Gee layup attempts, wildly off the mark Anthony Bennett jumpers, and Jarrett Jack mid-range jumpers. For much of the season this team has threw in the towel on defense when they just couldn’t find a way to get buckets. So, as comically inept as this streak is, the fact that they did not decide to loaf on defense is sign that perhaps the change fans thought they saw during the winning streak is real. The worst deficit the Cavs faced during this game was 13, but to any spectator it felt like it must be 100.
- +3 – The difference between Anthony Bennett’s traveling violations and field goals made. He had five shot attempts and none of them found their destination. On the other hand, he was called for traveling three times in just nine minutes of action. It was discouraging to watch because it resembled the tentative Bennett fans grew to loathe from the beginning of the season. He appeared to be over-thinking his every move and a few of his shots were wildly off the mark. Hopefully it was just a small setback for Bennett who even with the 0-5 in the box score is shooting .471 in the field goal % column for the month of February.
- 1 - That’s how many lottery picks from the 2011 NBA Draft were on the court during crunch time in this close affair. Both Jonas Valacinunas and Tristan Thompson were riding the bench late. Brown opted to go with his pair of ivory towers in Tyler Zeller and Spencer Hawes. The lineup actually looked rather proficient on offense even though it failed to bring home a victory. Zeller played well off of the Hawes/Irving pick n’ roll and was able to register eight points in the final seven minutes of the game.
- 0 minutes rested – Kyrie Irving did not get a single second of rest during the second half against the Raptors and it wasn’t hard to tell why. Without Waiters and Miles, Brown was forced to ride his star point guard for 24 consecutive minutes hoping to pull out a win. Overall, he registered 45 minutes played. It still wasn’t enough to overcome the third seeded Raptors.
- 13/55 from three - The Cavaliers three point shooting during this current three game losing streak. They’re hitting a meager .236 from deep. That just won’t get it done. Over half of those made threes, seven to be exact, are compliments of Spencer Hawes. Hawes has actually looked quite good in a Cavs uniform thus far. Though he’ll never be a defensive stopper, the lackluster defense he showed in Philly hasn’t yet made its way to Cleveland. Irving is still getting used to how to play with a big man with range out to the three point line, but it’s serving to open up the floor for everyone else. I hope to see him more heavily involved in the offense as the season progresses, especially once CJ Miles, a second competent three point shooter, returns. My one complaint thus far with Hawes on offense is that he seems to have a slow release on his shot which has seen him run off the three point line on multiple occasions.
Fans will surely focus on the possible blown calls late in the game that denied Irving multiple trips to the free throw line and possibly decided the outcome of the game. Though that surely factors into the final score, this loss came down to the fact that the Cavs are missing three of their top six players right now. They don’t have the offensive depth to make up for it. I’m sure the Cavs will continue to talk as if they intend to push for the playoffs, but with a trip to Oklahoma City to follow and a deadly March on the horizon it might be safe for Dan Gilbert to buy that lottery ticket he so boldly proclaimed he wasn’t going to need this time around.