Cavs vs Raptors Behind the Box Score: One ugly way to win a game

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

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.

  • Pat Leonard

    With the exception of that huge comeback towards the end of the game, that was a fun one. More Dion. More Delly. More wins.

  • Jason Hurley

    Super-serious question: Would fans be receptive to trading Irving for a chance to load up on solid draft picks/pieces this year (in what is supposed to be a great draft) and build around Waiters? That is, if Irving shows this offseason that he’s not really open to a big extension?

  • Harv 21

    “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.”

    Well, this is the ongoing prob, a chemistry/redundancy issue brought into stark relief whenever Kyrie misses time. The question is whether it’s fixable, by the HC, an offensive coach, or the players themselves. If it’s a systemic problem – you rob Dion of his greatest strengths by making him play off a ball-dominant Kyrie – then a good player has been put in a position to fail, forever walking up the down escalator, and shame on the previous FO.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    The segment of fans who think Kyrie is the problem and/or that Dion is better than Kyrie will probably be open to it. I personally want no part of that. I like Dion, but I don’t think he’s a player you build around. If he’s the best player on the team, you ceiling is pretty limited.

    It all comes down to Kyrie and Dion figuring out how to play together. It took Durant and Westbrook a long time to get where they’re at, and they still haven’t totally figured it out. This stuff isn’t easy.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    The thing is, it’s not like Dion is even playing on the ball more. Jack is still initiating the offense. But I think Dion, knowing that Kyrie is out, is taking it upon himself to try to lift the team up. That’s what I mean in that line you quoted. The Cavs need Dion to keep this mentality when Kyrie comes back.

    It all boils down to why it’s so unfortunate Kyrie and Dion don’t play together more even when healthy. Developing on-court chemistry isn’t easy, but when you don’t play together much, it’s practically impossible. I hope Dion has earned a starting spot when Kyrie comes back, even if that’s next year. Kyrie and Dion need to be the starting backcourt.

  • Pat Leonard

    I would not be in favor of such a move. I like Kyrie and think he’s a rare talent, but more than that, I just don’t think this draft is anywhere near as loaded as it was originally projected to be. I look at the guys at the (expected) top of the draft and I don’t see star power.

  • Harv 21

    I agree with this: I would go all Phil Jackson, stick them in together and force them to try and work it out. But I don’t trust Mike Brown’s instincts in the subtleties of overseeing this. The preseason hire of assistant Igor Kokoskov was supposed to bring a guard-friendly system but who knows if Brown is delegating anything.

  • mgbode

    It’s just the sweet16 and we will be w/o the following projected top10 picks: Jabari, Wiggins, Embiid*, Smart, Vonleh, Early, Exum*, McDermott, TJ Warren
    *didn’t play in tournament

    who is left that could be a top10 pick?
    Anderson/LaVine(UCLA), Randle(Kentucky), Harris(MichSt)

    that’s the top13 guys on most boards and the 4 remaining guys are not favored in their games.

    ——————

    this is not the end-all/be-all for NBA projections, but you think if you have a transcendent talent that he would be able to at least get your team into the sweet16 or elite8, no?

    Of the guys above, the one that impressed the most in the tournament was Early, but he’s already as old as Tristan/Dion and older than Kyrie.

    There are a couple other guys I like too and it is a deep draft for talent (if they come out), but I agree that the top of the draft just isn’t what it was claimed to be for the past year.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I agree with everything you just wrote. I’ve always been MB’s biggest defender, but even I’m to the point where I can’t deny that he was the wrong guy to hire to develop this team. I get that some would say the way the team has gotten better as the season went along shows he actually is developing them, but he makes so many counter intuitive head scratching decisions as a coach with a young team that I just don’t trust him anymore.

    I talked about this on Twitter with someone last night, but I really hope that whatever GM is hired, I hope he makes hiring his own coach a condition of accepting the job. And personally, I’d love to see them make a run at Fred Hoiberg. He had a long NBA career and knows the pro game, but as a college coach, he’s shown great propensity for developing young players. He’s a born and bred Ames guy, so I don’t know if he wants to leave Iowa St for the NBA, but I’d really like to see the Cavs try.

  • Harv 21

    Imagine the ridicule that would be piled on Dan Gilbert if he fires Brown, just one year after re-hiring him and claiming the first firing was a mistake. He’d be compared to Steinbrenner circa 1980s.

    Even if it’s the right thing, that happening just a few months after Chud got whacked might destroy whatever’s left of my Cleveland sports soul. Ya hear me, Dan? Give him another year and an ultimatum to delegate the offense.

  • vedwin

    Whether or not you can attribute it to Mike Brown this team does seem to play better defense and they are actually finally playing hard consistantly which I think needs needs to be talked about more.

    I’m not sure we need a new head coach but if I’m David Griffin or whomever the new GM is I will absolutely be dictating to Mike Brown that offensive changes need to be made/delegated. If Mike doesn’t like it then he is free to resign.

    The offense manages to look good when they are pushing the ball up the court at every opportunity. The defense usually looks good too. Who’s fault is it when things slow down? I’m not really sure.

  • Greg Popelka

    I listen to Cavalier games, way more than I watch them. With that team, does “chemistry issues” = “Kyrie doesn’t pass enough?”

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I really like Early. And you know what? I even kind of like that he’s older. I think his age and maturity as a player could be beneficial. The Cavs have plenty of super young players. I’m not opposed to drafting Early whatsoever. As long as it’s not early.

    I’d just love to see him fall to the Cavs in the 2nd round. But you know what’s going to happen, right? The Spurs are going to get him and he’s going to be an excellent player for them.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Yeah, I don’t disagree. But I do think hiring a new GM gives Gilbert an out if he wants it. They can just say the new GM wanted to hire his own guy and that DG doesn’t want to interfere with the new GM.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I really don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows why they flip that switch so easily on offense.

  • vedwin

    it’s almost as though the team gets lebron syndrome when kyrie has the ball and they just end up watching him. Like they don’t expect to get the ball or they want him to go ISO because he has such a good handle. In that sense I think that everyone is at fault and its kind of a vicious feedback loop.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t see a foundation to build on for next season this team is to schitzo which for me leads back to the head coach.

  • mgbode

    if CleAnthony Early is not a lottery pick, then I don’t know what happened to NBA scouting.

  • steve-o

    The Cavs are 28-44. Adding 10-21 and 18-17 would give us a record of 28-38. Don’t know where the mistake is, but the losses don’t add up.

  • Steve

    I’m on board. Kyrie is an exciting, captivating player, but after three years now, I don’t think he’s ever going to be the best player on a team that can threaten 60 wins. He’s a long way from that still. Punt and start over. We need that legitimate superstar, and the best way to get him is at the top of the draft.

  • Steve

    “but even I’m to the point where I can’t deny that he was the wrong guy to hire to develop this team”

    The problem is, I’m not sure who is. For better or worse, this team needed someone to kick them in the rear and get them to play defense.

    And I think firing Brown to bring in someone to run the offense that lets Irving and Waiters continue to do their thing sets a bad precedent. I know it’s a player’s league, but I think by doing so, you reinforce all the bad traits that have led this team to another 30 win seasons. You need someone to convince Irving that what he’s doing isn’t working.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I guess it looks like opinion is all over the map on this kid. He’s the best player I’ve seen in any tournament games. I’d be ok with the Cavs taking him at 9. I’d certainly rather have him than the Vonleh kid from Indiana that ESPN’s lotto game has them taking.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Good catch, that’s what I get for doing math at night when I’m tired and on cold meds. They are 18-23 since.

  • DontbringLBJback

    Mike Brown is a Greg Popavich disciple. In the last 10-12 games, I think I’ve actually seen the team play like a (albeit less talented) San Antonio-esk team. Guys seems to be moving better without the ball, getting more open shots, PASSING the ball when they’re doubled or tripled (in the case of Kyrie), and the system seems to finally be working. I just have NO CLUE why it took so long. But I like what I see. That being said, you have got to start Kyrie and Dion together and just let them work it out… even if it takes a year. Trading Kyrie is a non-starter if you ask me. It means rebuilding when it seems like we have a good foundation of young players, and that’s a bad idea. And here’s hoping Anthony Bennett turns into the young version of Antawn Jamison (I hope that’s a reasonable expectation) in the next 2 years.

  • mgbode

    Good to know espn thinks we need yet another PF