The Cavaliers started out playing great basketball on both ends of the court. In the 3rd quarter they extended the lead to 18 points at 81-63. Then they turned the offense switch to the “Off” position, and with with just under 7 minutes remaining in the game, Greivis Vasquez hit a three point shot to put the Raptors up 95-94.
The Cavaliers would quickly take the lead back and would lead the rest of the way, but it took a little luck down the stretch. The Raptors missed a couple good looks and the Cavaliers held a three point lead with 12 seconds left. DeMar DeRozan then drove and was fouled by Alonzo Gee. DeRozan only made one of his two free throws and after a Cleveland timeout, the Cavaliers were inbounding at midcourt with 7 seconds left.
This is where the Cavaliers’ inbounding issues would strike yet again. First Luol Deng was handed inbounding duties, and when nobody was able to get open, he called a timeout. Then Varejao was given the job of inbounding, and once again with nothing really developing, he tried to throw it in to Deng along the baseline, but the ball sailed out of bounds. It looked like the refs missed a foul on the play, but regardless, its embarrassing that the Cavaliers still can’t operate an inbound play in late game situations.
Thankfully, though, the Raptors decided to return the favor with a bad turnover of their own on their last possession and the Cavaliers hung on for the 102-100 win over a playoff team in the East. The Cavaliers continue to play hard without Kyrie Irving, CJ Miles, or Anthony Bennett, it’s just a shame it’s happening now that the playoffs are but a minute possibility.
Now lets get into the numbers:
- 30 assists on 35 made field goals – Despite holding the Raptors to just 39.8% shooting from the field, Toronto was still able to demonstrate some excellent team basketball, assisting on 30 of their 35 FGs. The Cavaliers were pretty good in this aspect, too, with 27 assists on 36 made shots. But for the Cavs, the difference was noticeable after they went up 81-63 in the 3rd quarter. Up to that point the Cavaliers had assisted on 24 of their 30 baskets (80%), but then just assisted on 3 of their last 6 baskets (50%) the rest of the way.
- 32 to 13 – The Cavaliers played pretty well for all but about 10 minutes in this game. But from the 4:30 mark in the 3rd quarter to the 6:40 point in the 4th quarter, the Cavaliers were outscored 32 to 13. During that stretch the Raptors shot 55.6% from the field (compared to 28.6% for the Cavs) and hit 4 of 7 threes. The Raptors outrebounded the Cavs 12-7 in that stretch and had just 1 turnover compared to 3 for the Cavs. It can be frustrating watching how fast the Cavaliers can turn the switch on and off, but fortunately in this one the Raptors went ice cold after taking the lead, making just one of their last ten shots.
- 15 and 13 – After a stretch of some pretty underwhelming basketball, Tristan rebounded in this one, both literally and figuratively. Tristan had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds and was a team-high +9 in this game. It was a refreshing return to form for Tristan, and it came in a game in which the Cavaliers really needed it.
- 24 points – Dion Waiters continues his scorching hot play, putting in a game-high 24 points along with 7 assists and 3 rebounds. It’s remarkable seeing how Dion’s game has grown since returning to the starting lineup in Kyrie’s absence. Dion no longer seems to be forcing it and is figuring out how to dominate a game while staying inside the flow of the offense. He seems patient on offense and is setting up his teammates when the play demands it. If this Dion can be the Dion we get when Kyrie is playing, it will definitely change the outlook for the young Cavs’ backcourt going forward.
- 13 point on 5-16 shooting – Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan is averaging over 22 points per game this season, but tonight Luol Deng played some pretty good defense on DeRozan and, for his part, DeRozan seemed to be struggling with his shot all night. He finished with just 13 points, his lowest scoring output since he had just 10 points on January 25th against the Clippers.
We knew March was going to be a brutal month for the Cavaliers, but they now sit at 4-8 on the month. Not great, but not as bad as it looked like it was going to be when Kyrie went down with the injury. After starting 10-21 from October through December, the Cavs are now 18-23 since, much closer to what most expected this team to be. It just illustrates how frustrating it is that the team dug themselves into such a deep hole.
The Cavaliers are now through most of the roughest parts of the month. There are now just 10 games left, and many of those games are winnable games. The Cavs aren’t really playing for much. They currently are in 10th place in the East and 4.5 games behind Atlanta. Making up 4.5 games in just 10 games is too much to wish for. But still, it would be nice to see the Cavaliers finish out the stretch on a high note continuing to play good basketball and laying a positive foundation to build on heading into next season. That foundation building will continue tomorrow night in Detroit.