Result: Raptors 99, Cavaliers 93
Games Out: 5 Behind Hawks
Games Remaining: 24
What we learned against the Raptors: Dreams of postseason basketball in Cleveland--sparked by the glorious moment in Cavs' history known forever as the six-game winning streak of '14--are effectively over. This three-game losing streak, powered by Canada's Raptors, has been determined as the cause of death. It's a sobering reality that makes us all collectively wonder where exactly Usher is in all this, as Drake and his guys laugh their way to the postseason.
Five games out with 24 remaining heading into a matchup with the Western Conference’s winningest team is about as real as it gets. During Tuesday's matchup with Toronto, Cleveland lacked the legs and firepower to make enough plays down the stretch. There were some questionable calls by the officials. Maybe the Cavaliers' coach should have gotten himself ejected in response. Or maybe the Raptors would have just added a couple more points on his way out and widened the already slim margin if he did. Either way, Brown remained on the sideline to watch Kyrie Irving finish with 25 points in 45 minutes as his team fell just short.
Irving connected on 10-of-22 field goals to arrive at 25. He didn’t seem to have any legs left on his long-range jumper and shot 1-of-5 from three as a result. But that's going to happen when a guy plays just about the whole game and expends the type of energy Irving does trying to create offense off the dribble. I said on Twitter during the first half that he would eventually need 30 if Cleveland was going to get the win. A couple calls go the other way and Irving might've broken through that plateau. Instead, he finished five points shy of that number and his team lost by six while C.J. Miles, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao could do nothing but watch.
Matthew Dellavedova and the Cavs depleted bench
Matthew Dellavedova scored two of his 10 points during the first three quarters against the Raptors. His two points were all that Cleveland's bench accounted for prior to the start of the fourth quarter. This basically led to Irving playing 45 minutes on the night. Delly scored eight more in the fourth to go along with eight points from Tyler Zeller and two more from Anthony Bennett to give the bench 20 for the game. Greivis Vasquez, meanwhile, paced Toronto's reserves with 15.
Anthony Bennett needs consistent minutes
It's impossible to succeed in basketball without consistent minutes. NBA players, especially, are creatures of habit who need to know when they're checking into a game, how long they're expected to play and when their coming out in order to properly prepare mentally. Anthony Bennett is no exception. The Cavaliers No. 1 overall pick sat on the bench for the entire second and third quarters on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Luol Deng played 39 minutes and Spencer Hawes played 32. I don't expect either of those two guys to be back in Cleveland next year. Regardless, they played during another loss while Bennett logged 8 minutes and 40 seconds as all of Toronto watched on the local broadcast. Now I realize he eventually finished 0-for-5 from the field and picked up a technical during the fourth quarter. But it's pretty hard for anybody to develop and excel when playing those type of minutes.
Photo: AP / Tony Dejak