Honestly, there’s no other way to explain the Cavaliers’ 113-99 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. I mean, we’re not talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder here.
We’re talking about the Raptors — who galloped their way to an 11-game road losing streak on their way to The Q. That’s bad. Like, real bad.
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So the Cavs probably figured all they had to do was show up, and who knows? Maybe they were right. But they couldn’t even be bothered to do that much.
Young team or not, that’s inexcusable.
You don’t allow a team like Toronto to shoot 52 percent from the floor and 50 percent on three-pointers. You don’t let the Raptors’ bench outscore yours by a 59-21 count. You don’t concede an entire second half just because, apparently, you don’t really want to make an effort on defense.
Oh, by the way, the Raptors were without two starters, who also happen to be their second- and third-leading scorers — as Andre Bargnani (16.0 ppg) and Kyle Lowery (15.8) were both injured.
That’s like getting beat up by the weakest kid in your class with one arm tied behind his back.
But for the Cavs (5-21), it’s about more than just one game. This season is really about the big picture, the long-term. And that’s OK.
At least, it’s OK until you get embarrassed in games like these. The Cavs didn’t need to win. They just needed to be engaged. They weren’t, and when it comes to battling second-rate outfits, they haven’t been nearly enough.
That is an awful habit to develop at such a tender age. After all, it can last entire NBA lifetimes.
You get pumped up for the Kobe Bryants of the world and fall asleep on the Jose Calderons, and both can end up making you feel miserable.
Calderon is the Raptors’ point guard (well, backup point guard) and he looked about as good as Lakers star Bryant when Bryant was in town last week.
Tuesday, Calderon finished with 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting, and he did all of it in the first three quarters.
Or how about that Raptors’ bench? Alan Anderson came off it to score 18 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Amir Johnson came off it for 17 on 6-for-7.
Never heard of Anderson or Johnson? Don’t feel bad. They entered the night averaging slightly better than 15 points. Combined.
As for the Cavs, well, it’d be unfair to call out any one individual. This was a total team flop in the truest sense. As you can tell by the numbers, the majority of the frustrations took place on D.
The Cavs lacked effort in that area, didn’t play smart in that area, didn’t consider the perimeter or protect the basket in that area.
No less than Cavs coach Byron Scott said, “From a defensive standpoint, we took a step back.”
He later added, “If you want to be successful, it’s on that end of the floor first. It has to be for 48 minutes.”
As usual, Kyrie Irving (23 points, seven assists) can be pardoned. He was one of the few guys who seemed just as concerned with shutting down his man as he did with getting to shoot. Same, as usual, goes for Anderson Varejao (22 points, 10 rebounds).
And say what you will about Tristan Thompson’s incommunicable struggles on offense, at least he hustled and tried to make some winning plays.
This isn’t intended to trash the other guys, because even Scott will tell you that everyone must play with more energy, more confidence, more intelligence, and with a sense of more purpose.
Until then, all the draft picks and assets and promising young talent won’t mean a thing. It’ll just leave you with more losses and more empty feelings.
“When we play the lower-echelon teams, we don’t come out like we want to,” Irving said. “We’ve got to come out with more focus and a killer mentality.”
At least the Cavs know that. Or at least they say they do.
Now they need to put it into action.
Otherwise, the end result will be the same type of humiliation suffered Tuesday. Or worse, allowing humiliations such as Tuesday’s to become a habit.
• Dion Waiters returned to the lineup for the first time in eight games. He scored eight points on 4-for-13 shooting. “Rusty,” was how Scott described Waiters’ return.
• The Cavs are 4-0 when Waiters scores at least 16 points.
• C.J. Miles averaged 22.5 points in his four games starting in place of Waiters. Miles scored 13 off the bench Tuesday.
• The Cavs shot just 67 percent (20-for-30) on free throws. Varejao had career-highs in free throws made (12) and attempted (16) in one game.