Cleveland Cavaliers – 116
Toronto Raptors – 112
The Cavaliers broke their three-game losing skid, winning 116-112 in Toronto on Monday night. But victory did not come without a price, as Cavalier guard J.R. Smith was injured in the first half and did not return.
The Cavaliers thought they had escaped catastrophe as LeBron James came up limping following an alley-oop from Kyrie Irving but was able to stay in the game. Later in the first half, J.R. Smith came down awkwardly after a layup attempt. Smith was in obvious pain, covering his face with his jersey and remaining sprawled on the court for several minutes. Early reports were positive, but Smith will return to Cleveland for more tests.
With Smith out of the game, DeAndre Liggins saw the biggest increase in his role, playing 21 minutes. If Smith misses any time, the Cavaliers will be relying on the likes of Liggins, Iman Shumpert, Jordan McRae, and prayers to fill his role on the team. Kevin Love’s hot shooting of late (six of eleven from three tonight) and Channing Frye’s emergence as a major role player will soften the blow of losing J.R.’s shooting, but the Cavaliers were already short on competent guard play. Depth at this position will likely be a storyline all year, and something to watch when the trade deadline approaches.
It wasn’t all bad news, as the Cavaliers put together a solid effort to beat a red-hot Toronto Raptors team on the road. The Raptors had won six straight and were breathing down the Cavs’ necks in the Eastern Conference standings before tonight. With this win, the Cavaliers have won the season series against Toronto, helping with any future tie-breakers for home-court advantage in the playoffs.
LeBron James led the way with 34 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and only one turnover. Turnovers had become a bit of an issue lately, with LeBron averaging nearly seven per game in the three-game losing streak. Kevin Love poured in 28 points after failing to his the 20 point mark during the losing skid. Love added 14 rebounds. Kyrie Irving scored 24 points and added seven assists while battling early foul trouble.
The Raptors made it close late, but a DeMar Derozan three pointer that brought the game to within two points was waved off after replay showed he stepped out of bounds. In the end, the Cavaliers didn’t look dominant, but did just enough to beat a very good team.
The Cavs travel to New York to face the Knicks on Wednesday.
In non-basketball Cavaliers news, the team continues to make waves off the court, as a few players declined to stay in a Donald Trump owned hotel for this trip.
Let’s avoid politics at all costs and instead look behind the box score!
41.9 percent – Kevin Love’s three point percentage this season, up from 36.5 for his career. This is something we’ve mentioned a few times in this space, but is worth watching. Love is obviously in the best shape of his Cavalier career and perhaps the open looks generated by LeBron James will finally translate into an uptick in Love’s shooting percentages. His 54 percent from long-range over his last six games has certainly increased his season averages.
23 – The Cavaliers had the 15th best DefRtg before their three-game losing streak. They are now 23rd. Those were some ugly games.
16 – The Cavs have the 16th best Reb% in the NBA, down from third overall last year. It’s odd they haven’t shown the same dominance on the boards as last season considering Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and LeBron James are all great rebounders.
10 – The Cavs play at the tenth fastest pace in the NBA, up from 28th last season. Perhaps the faster pace is causing the Cavs to spend last time crashing the boards, explaining the drop in rebounds.
0 – The number of breaths I took when LeBron started limping.
1 million – The number of tears I shed when J.R. went down.
3 – Home games after the game this Wednesday in New York. Let’s hope the this is the start of another win streak!