With a little under two minutes to go, Dion Waiters pulled up for a jumper from the free throw line and shot an air ball. Tonight was supposed to be Waiters’ return: a return that would put the Cavaliers at full strength for the first time in weeks. Instead, the Cavs fell flat after a strong first quarter, and lost to the Toronto Raptors by the score of 113-97. Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 23 points, while Jose Calderon led Toronto with 23 as well. Anderson Varejao added 22 points for Cleveland, while Alan Anderson had 18 points off the bench for Toronto. Waiters finished with eight points on 4-of-13 shooting in 29 minutes of action.
The Cavaliers came out semi-hot in the first quarter. The highlight for Cleveland came when Alonzo Gee blocked a shot from Jonas Valanciunas, and took the ball down court. The play was capped off by a one-handed dunk from Waiters, giving the Cavaliers an 11-8 lead and prompting a Toronto timeout. The key to the quarter for Cleveland was their ability to attack the basket. The Wine and Gold shot worse than Toronto from the field, but were able to go 7-of-9 from the line, giving them an edge in an otherwise close game. The low light for Cleveland game when Varejao went knee to knee with a Toronto player, and after shooting his two free throws, went back to the locker room. According to the Cavaliers, the injury was a knee contusion and required no extra attention. The quarter ended with a deep three from Kyrie Irving, which gave the Cavaliers a 29-22 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Toronto start out hot, and pull within one by the nine-minute mark. On the ensuing possession, Varejao again took a hard fall when Amir Johnson fouled him by throwing him to the ground, resulting in a Flagrant One foul being called on Johnson. After Toronto took the lead taht prompted a Cleveland timeout, the Cavaliers found their groove again. Daniel Gibson nailed a deep three pointer, and on the next possession he fed a cutting Anderson Varejao for a lay up. The end of the quarter became a small scoring shootout, as Irving and Calderon traded buckets down the stretch. At the half, the Cavaliers led the Raptors, 53-49. For the majority of the third quarter, the pace of the game slowed down, which greatly favored the Raptors. The change in pace changed the Cavaliers from an aggressive offensive team to a team thriving on turnovers and fast break points to a team comfortable settling for crappy jump shots and pull-up three pointers. In the last two minutes, the Cavaliers did pick up the pace on offense, but they could not get Toronto out of their groove on the defensive end. To make matters worse for the Cavs, Waiters had to exit early in the quarter when he picked up his fourth foul. Thanks to an eight-point third quarter for Irving, the Cavaliers kept it close, finishing the quarter only down one point to the Raptors. Toronto really succeeded running pick and rolls against Cleveland, especially when Calderon was matched up with Irving.
The start of the fourth was much like the majority of the third quarter. Relying on a slowed tempo and their pick and roll game, the Raptors scored five straight to open the quarter. After a Waiters dunk, John Lucas III hit a four-point play that gave the Raptors their biggest lead of the ball game. From there, nothing went the Cavaliers’ way at all. Due to a combination of good shooting by Toronto, a slowed tempo and the inability to defend Toronto’s pick and roll, the Cavaliers could not overcome their double-digit deficit. The fourth quarter, if nothing else, was a culmination of a downright disappointing performance in a game Cleveland probably should have been in.
The Cavaliers will get no rest after this game, as the play in Boston tomorrow against the Celtics.