Irving struggles as Raptors rip Cavs 104-96

Kyrie Irving didn’t dwell over his dubious debut for more than a

minute.

Life in the NBA moves too quickly for reflection.

”It’s on to the next one,” he said. ”To survive in this game

you have to have that attitude.”

Cleveland’s rookie guard scored just six points and hardly

played like the No. 1 overall pick as the Toronto Raptors spoiled

Irving’s entrance into the pros with a 104-96 season-opening win

over the Cavaliers on Monday night.

Irving, who played just 11 games as a freshman at Duke before

leaving, finished just 2 of 12 from the field – he made a

meaningless 3-pointer in the final minute – with seven assists and

one turnover in 26 minutes. The Cavs are counting on the

19-year-old to turn around a team that won just 19 games last

season.

”It’s disappointing,” Irving said. ”You want to play really

well when the whole world is watching. It’s a learning

process.”

Toronto, which went only 22-60 last season, won its first game

under coach Dwane Casey. He was an assistant last season for the

champion Dallas Mavericks.

DeMar DeRozan scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth for

Toronto, which had seven players score in double figures. Jose

Calderon scored 15 points with 11 assists, Amir Johnson had 13

points and 13 rebounds, Leandro Barbosa scored 14 and Andrea

Bargnani 13.

”It’s one game,” Casey said. ”I don’t want to get too excited

on wins and I don’t want to get too upset on losses. There are 65

more games.”

Ramon Sessions led the Cavaliers with 18 and rookie Tristan

Thompson, taken three picks after Cleveland selected Irving, added

12.

Alonzo Gee had 15 points and Anderson Varejao 14 points and 10

rebounds for Cleveland, which pulled within 82-80 on Daniel

Gibson’s layup with nine minutes left, igniting a crowd at Quicken

Loans Arena hoping to see the Irving era start with a win.

But DeRozan came up big down the stretch, scoring nine points in

the final six minutes. His jumper from the right corner put the

Cavs away in the final minute. Toronto seemed to make the right

pass whenever it needed one, and more often than not, the shot went

in.

”This is not a democracy offensively,” Casey said. ”We want

to make sure we get the ball where we want it to go. This is not a

my-turn game. It’s not a rec league game. We want to make sure our

offensive players who are closers get the basketball.”

Although it was assumed Irving would start, Cavs coach Byron

Scott didn’t inform the youngster that he would be on the floor for

the opening tip until the morning shootaround. Scott broke the news

to Irving by telling him to ”put on a red (practice) jersey on.”

Cleveland’s starters wear wine-colored tops during practice.

Scott offered Irving some advice before his first game as a

pro.

”I told him to relax and have fun,” Scott said. ”You only get

to do this once, where it’s your first NBA game. I told him to

enjoy the moment, but when that ball gets thrown up to get back to

business.”

Afterward, Scott wasn’t disappointed with his young point

guard.

”He looked OK,” Scott said. ”For playing in what was probably

his fifth game in a year, he looked all right. He had seven assists

and one turnover. The only thing he didn’t do was shoot the ball

well. Other than that, I thought he did a pretty good job.”

Irving didn’t fare as well as some of the league’s top point

guards in their openers. Last year’s top pick, John Wall, scored 14

with nine assists for Washington. MVP Derrick Rose had 11 and nine

assists in 2008 and Chris Paul scored 13 with eight rebounds in

2005.

Irving didn’t show any nerves before tip-off. He popped on large

headphones and listened to music while sitting in a chair in front

of his locker.

It was only when he got on the floor that Irving seemed a little

overwhelmed. He started slowly, missing his first three shots and

didn’t score his first point until making a technical with 3:50

left in the first half. He scored his first field goal five seconds

later, banking in a runner from the right side.

But he forced other shots and the Raptors never let him get into

a rhythm.

”I was a little bit too tentative out there and thinking about

my shot,” Irving said. ”I have to push through it mentally and

physically.”

Irving was mostly unfazed by the loss. He spoke matter of factly

about what went wrong and was already looking forward to

Cleveland’s next game – at Detroit on Wednesday.

”It’s just one game.” Irving said. ”We’re 0-1 and we’ve got

65 games to go. It’s a learning process for me.”

Notes: Gee survived a spectacular crash after a dunk that was

waved off in the second quarter. Gee threw the ball down – he was

called for traveling – grabbed the rim, and nearly did a backward

flip before landing on his neck and shoulders. He got up, brushed

himself off and went back on defense. Even LeBron James tweeted

”Ouch!!” after watching Gee’s tumble. ”Oh my God,” Varejao

said. ”That was scary,” … Toronto backup C Aaron Gray was kept

out as a precaution because of a rapid heart rate. Gray, who signed

with the Raptors as a free agent when camp opened, may visit a

specialist at the Cleveland Clinic while the team is in town. …

Toronto F Jamaal Magloire is the Raptors’ first Canadian-born

player. … Cleveland’s home opener was not sold out for the first

time since 2004.