Ask anyone on the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they’ll tell you that first quarter could not have gone any worse.
The Cavaliers, again without star point guard Kyrie Irving, started off the game sluggish and shooting poorly. Through the first six minutes of the game, Cleveland was 1-of-15 from the field – good for an awful 6.7 percent. Toronto, on the other hand, started off hot from the floor and got to the basket early and often.
But from there, the Cavaliers took it up a notch. Led by the surging Dion Waiters, the Cavs pulled back within five by the end of the quarter. However, they still only shot 9-for-26 from the field in the first 12 minutes.
But after that ugly first quarter, Cleveland turned it up a notch and took the game over. After the dreadful first quarter, the Cavaliers shot 25- for-56 – good for a much better 44.6 percent. For the game, Waiters led the Cavaliers with 23 points, while Wayne Ellington added 13 off the bench. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 34 on 10-of-19 shooting,
As touched on before, the first quarter was almost the total undoing for Cleveland. Playing their fourth game in five nights, Cleveland looked slow and lethargic to start off the game. But something just clicked late in the quarter, and the energy level got kicked up a notch. Every player on the floor seemed to get in the flow all at once (even Luke Walton), and the Cavaliers slowly made it a game.
After the first half, Cleveland just continued to dominate the game and expand the lead. With C.J. Miles providing a spark off the bench along with Ellington, the momentum totally shifted in favor of the Wine and Gold.
Overall, there was a lot to like about this game for the Cavaliers. First off, they won their second game in a row against a solid team without Irving running the point. Relying on Livingston, Waiters and solid bench play, the Cavaliers were able to mount a comeback and eventually win by double digits. To put that in perspective, by halftime, when the Cavaliers really had solidified their lead, they had maneuvered a 25-point swing against Toronto.
Secondly, this was another growth game for Waiters. An enigma at times this season, Waiters has played high level basketball over the last three games. He played as well as a rookie can against Dwyane Wade on Sunday, then scored 26 Tuesday night in Chicago and then capped the stretch by putting the team on his back against Toronto. His shot selection was on par, he attacked the rim and only committed three turnovers in a team high 35 minutes of action. In a very telling sign, Waiters was also given the ball down the stretch ahead of Livingston. If he can keep this up, Irving may have his sidekick right now.
Lastly, this was an overall growth game for the Cavs. Toronto is a team on the rise and they overcame that awful first quarter to beat a team that could make the playoffs in the East. They only committed 10 turnovers, made 93.8 percent of their free throws and outrebounded Toronto 40-28. They also ran well and got buckets from players like Walton that really sealed the game for them. The bench, in conjunction with Waiters, really won the game tonight.
Take a look at Walton for example. The forward, who will likely not be a Cavalier next year, had a solid game, putting up five points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 21 minutes of action. He also had the play of the night in the fourth quarter. Passing the ball through his legs to a rolling Ellington, Walton nabbed an assist and set up a bucket that helped seal the victory for the Wine and Gold.
The Cavaliers are not going to get this kind of victory every night, but they can at least be confident in the fact that their bench can be counted on. This game, if anything else, was a game that proved the Cavaliers are on their way up.
Cleveland next takes on the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday at Quicken Loans Arena. Tip-off is 7:30 PM.