CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers can only hope this is rock bottom.
Fully healthy and playing against a supposedly equally bad Toronto team, the Cavs stunk up the joint in the second half Tuesday and fell 113-99 at less-than-half-full Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavs (5-21), who have lost four straight, 9-of-10, 13-of-15 and 19-of-22, were totally defenseless on a night when the Raptors (7-19) were minus two starters in 16-point scorer Andrea Bargnani and 15.8-point scorer Kyle Lowry.
A robust 1-14 on the road coming in, Toronto poured in 64 points in the second half, including 35 in the fourth quarter. In that final period, the Raptors’ bench outscored Cleveland’s 33-3 (59-21 for the night).
There is, of course, an explanation for all this: The Cavs, who have the worst record in the league since the start of the 2010-11 season, were overconfident and unmotivated.
“When we play lower-echelon teams, we don’t come out like want to,” Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving said. “When we play teams like the Lakers and New York, we’re in the game. But it’s a letdown here. We have to come out with a more focused attitude and a killer instinct.”
OK, prepare a memo: The Cavs are a lower-echelon team. They entered the night with the second-worst record in the league, while Toronto, which has suddenly won three in a row, had the fourth-worst mark.
Irving, who led the Cavs with 23 points, was once again a sieve defensively, as coach Byron Scott took him off the opponent’s starting point guard — in this case Jose Calderon (season-high 23 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists) — for the third straight game.
Irving wasn’t the only problem on this night, however. In fact, Toronto, up 78-76 after three periods, scored an amazing 14 points in the 2:45 he was on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter, marking the beginning of the end for the Cavs.
“We made so many defensive mistakes,” muttered Scott, who wasn’t nearly as angry as he usually is after such a bad performance. “They seemed to pretty much capitalize on every one of them.”
Six Toronto players scored in double figures, including four reserves. In addition to Calderon, who was 7-for-8 from the field in the first half and 10-for-15 overall, the Raptors got 16 points from starting shooting guard DeMar DeRozan and double-digit efforts from bench players Alan Anderson (18), Amir Johnson (17), John Lucas (11) and Linas Kleiza (10).
“If you’re going to win in this league, it starts at the defensive end,” Scott said. “We’re not equipped right now to try to outscore people.”
Anderson Varejao, who bruised his right knee late in the first quarter, had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavs, with most of his offensive production coming on 12-for-16 shooting at the line.
Alonzo Gee (15) and C.J. Miles (13) were also decent, but shooting guard Dion Waiters managed just eight points on 4-for-13 shooting after missing the previous eight games with a sprained ankle.
The Cavs also got nothing from Tyler Zeller, who had two points and two rebounds in 16 minutes, and Daniel Gibson, who had six points in 15 minutes before spraining his right ankle.
“We just had defensive breakdowns,” Irving said. “It led to us being stagnant on offense.”
The game changed once and for all with Irving on the bench at the start of the fourth period. Fueled by a four-point play from Lucas, the Raptors went on a 14-4 run to go up 92-80 with 9:15 left and never looked back.
“We just have to put four quarters together,” said Irving, who would be even richer if he had a dollar for every time he’s said that. “That’s what it boils down to.”
Gibson did not know if his ankle would be healthy enough to play tonight in Boston, while Scott said Varejao’s knee could stiffen on the flight and he was “very concerned” about the center.
Varejao went down with 1:25 left in the first period when he was fouled by Kleiza. He was on the floor for several minutes but stayed in to shoot his free throws, missing the second. The Cavs quickly fouled intentionally and Varejao went to the locker room, but he was back on the bench to start the second period. Soon after he came back in the game, he went down on a flagrant foul by Johnson at the 8:52 mark of the second quarter.
Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft, had 10 points and nine boards in 29 minutes, but those numbers were padded late.
Thompson had six points and four boards at the end of the third period. Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick, had eight points and seven boards in 19 minutes. The Lithuanian also had a large cheering section decked out in green and yellow T-shirts.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.
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