Cleveland Cavaliers Get Back To Winning Ways Against Raptors

The Cleveland Cavaliers stopped their losing streak at three as they defeated the Toronto Raptors 116-112 in a game that went to the wire. Will this get the team back on the right track?

The honeymoon is officially over and the losing streak has ended at three.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are back on the winning track after defeating the Toronto Raptors on Monday. They have already won the season series against them, 3-0.  They play them one more time on April 12.

In the beginning of the game, it looked like the same team that lost three games in a row. They weren’t playing defense, had three straight turnovers and didn’t have energy. Even worst, J.R. Smith went down with a left knee injury late in the first quarter.

LeBron James landed awkwardly after throwing down a monster alley-oop for the second basket of the game, but he was fine.

The Cavaliers looked like a completely different team in the second half.  They spaced the floor, finally closed out on the perimeter and, biggest of all, they played interior defense!

My goodness, the world might possibly be ending!

They also didn’t seem to rely on the three-pointer as much as they have during the losing streak. They were focused on attacking the basket and only shooting good shots. They were 14-of-32 from long range.

Tristan Thompson added to his career-high average in blocks at 1.5 per game with two blocks in the contest.  Jonas Valanciunas, who usually has good games against the Cavs, only had four points.

Thompson and Channing Frye played him tough all game and it led to his struggles offensively.

That was something the Raptors couldn’t afford to happen.

The game plan with Toronto is simple. If opposing teams can stop either Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan, or both, they will have a difficult time winning games.

They both feed off each other’s production. Lowry looks more for the outside shot, while DeRozan is looking to penetrate to the lane or shoot the mid-range jumper.

He reminds me of Richard Hamilton with the consistency he’s developed with that shot.

I still find it comical that DeMarre Carroll is on the Raptors. They signed him to be the “LeBron stopper,” but just like with the Atlanta Hawks, he still struggles and it affects his game offensively when playing against him.

The series reminds me of the struggles the Cavs had with the Chicago Bulls in the early ’90s, and against the Detroit Pistons during James’ first tenure.  The talent is there, but they just don’t have enough in 48 minutes to win the game.

DeAndre Liggins stepped up in the absence of Smith and definitely earned more playing time. He likely took the minutes that Jordan McRae or Mike Dunleavy–who is still struggling atrociously–would get.

He played tough defense on Lowry and didn’t give Cory Joseph a chance to make any baskets. The biggest factors I liked when the Cavs signed Liggins were his height and length.

I might be getting ahead of myself, but i’m already thinking about the matchup between Liggins  and Shaun Livingston of the Golden State Warriors.  Liggins is 6-foot-6, while Livingston is 6-foot-7.

He won’t be able to use his size as an advantage against Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert or whatever potential point guard the Cavaliers could sign. We’ll hopefully be able to see it on Christmas Day.

The injury to Smith could lead the team to getting a point guard sooner rather than later. Some will say they have Kay Felder, but he’s still adjusting to the speed of the NBA.

Shumpert has been the main backup guard, but point guard is not his natural position and he’s too inconsistent.

He would be the starting shooting guard if need be. Unfortunately, that would make the bench even more thin than it already is. It’s an issue that coach Tyronn Lue didn’t want to deal with.

With the win on Monday and including the playoffs, the Cavaliers have won seven of the last nine against the Raptors. That’s not bad against the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.

This is a game that should jump start the Cavs, and hopefully get them back to their winning ways and performance from earlier in the season.

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