July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Cavs: Losing streak at three, depleted Cleveland just can’t keep up

CLEVELAND — Cavaliers television announcers Fred McLeod and Austin Carr hammered the refs. Cavs players and coaches did not.

On a night when three calls didn’t go their way down the stretch, the Cavs fell 99-93 to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday in front of 13,758 fans at Quicken Loans Arena.

“The referees weren’t why we lost this game,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said.

There’s no guarantee the Cavs (22-36) would have beaten the Raptors (32-25) even if they had gotten all three calls, but those whistles — or non-whistles — cemented the team’s third straight loss.

“That stuff we don’t have control over,” Brown said. “We’ve just got to find a way to overcome it and still get a win.”

Once again playing without Anderson Varejao (back), Dion Waiters (knee) and C.J. Miles (ankle), the Cavs couldn’t do because Toronto got 33 points from DeMar DeRozan and 19 from Terrence Ross.

Cleveland did, however, have its chances.

After Toronto went up 94-91 on a pair of DeRozan free throws with 1:23 remaining, Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving took a handoff in the lane and scored, but was called for an offensive foul against Kyle Lowry, negating the bucket.

Officials reviewed the play and stood by their call that Lowry was set and had both feet outside the no-charge zone.

The Cavs got the ball back again still down three, but Spencer Hawes, who made his first start with the team, threw the ball away while trying to hit a cutting Tyler Zeller, who appeared to be bumped by DeRozan.

No call was made, and DeRozan hit a pair of free throws to put the Raptors up five with 27.1 seconds left.

On Cleveland’s ensuing possession, Irving drove and appeared to draw contact from Toronto power forward Amir Johnson, but again no call was made.

Two Lowry free throws with 20.6 ticks on the clock put the Raptors up seven and effectively ended the Cavs’ chances.

“It’s part of the game,” Irving said of the no-calls. “The refs are going to make the call. You’ve just got to move on.”

The Cavs will move on to Oklahoma City for a game tonight, and they’re not going to have the freshest legs. They’re also going to be without Varejao, Waiters and Miles again.

Irving played the entire second half and 45 minutes in all against the Raptors, finishing with 25 points, four rebounds and nine assists.

Luol Deng, who had eight points on 3-for-14 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists, played 40 minutes and couldn’t stop DeRozan. Tonight, his task will be to defend Kevin Durant.

“When I pulled him in the first half, we had a little trouble scoring,” Brown said of not taking Irving out in the second half. “I thought he was in a little bit of a groove. He’s our best player, so I wanted to leave him on the floor and see if he could help the second unit generate some easy buckets.”

Irving did a decent job of that, but not before the Cavs went through a horrid stretch in the first half when he went to the bench.

Cleveland was at its worst to end the first period and start the second, when it was outscored 15-0 while missing 14 straight shots and going scoreless for 6:47. The Cavs actually missed 18 out of 19 at one point, scoring two points over 8:55 to fall behind by 14.

The slide coincided with Brown going to a lineup of Jarrett Jack and reserves Matthew Dellavedova, Alonzo Gee, Anthony Bennett and Zeller. The bench scored two points on 1-for-10 shooting in the first half, but Dellavedova, who had eight of his 10 points after intermission, and Zeller, who played the entire fourth quarter with Hawes, bounced back strong.

Looking like they had no chance late in the second quarter, the Cavs scored the last seven points of the first half and the first seven of the second to take a 48-47 lead, setting the stage for the close calls that went Toronto’s way down the stretch.

“It’s the refs’ job to make the call,” Irving said. “I’m going to pick myself up and get ready for OKC.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.