Game No. 56: Cavaliers 84, Raptors 80

The Raptors had a legit chance to take a four game winning streak into Oklahoma City this Sunday, but instead, they used their favourable matchup with the Cavaliers to start what could be a lengthy losing streak (check their upcoming schedule).

The Raps controlled this snooze fest for three quarters, but put together one of their worst fourth quarters of the season to throw what looked like a surefire win away. If you’re a TankNation subscriber, I guess this loss makes up for the unexpected win in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- I know now that we’re more than three months and 56 games into the season, a lot of people are getting sick of all the “tank” talk. But come on, did you see the starting lineups for this game? Let me throw some names at you: Donald Sloan, Manny Harris, Alan Anderson, Ben Uzoh. For various reasons, those four guys all started on Friday night. With all due respect to those players, this game could have passed for an episode of Greatest Tank Battles.

2- Aside from the low talent level in the ball game, the game itself was an absolute dud. There was no energy, no flow, an inconsistent effort, and the two teams combined to shoot an atrocious 56-of-146 from the field. Credit the 16,565 in attendance for manufacturing their own excitement the few times the Raptors gave them even an inkling to cheer for, but in all honesty, they would have been forgiven if they up and left midway through. It’s not like they were going to get their money’s worth from the game itself anyway. Byron Scott’s ejection in the second quarter was by far the most exciting couple of minutes all night.

3- I mentioned above that Alan Anderson started at small forward again, marking the second straight start for the 10-day man (Anderson and Uzoh were each given a second 10-day contract on Friday). James Johnson, on the other hand, was a DNP-Coach’s Decision for the second straight game. We know an “internal” matter caused Johnson’s benching on Wednesday, but we’ve all been led to believe the issue between James and Dwane Casey is a minor one, so it was definitely surprising to see Johnson riding the pine for 48 minutes again. Whether or not the small forward sees the floor on Sunday in OKC is now the definite storyline of that game from a Raptors’ perspective.

4- Another Raptor who seems to be in Dwane Casey’s dog house is Ed Davis. I’ve generally agreed with how Casey has allocated minutes this season, but I’m a bit puzzled by the treatment of Davis. Don’t get me wrong, Ed’s been a disappointment in his sophomore season, but in the few instances he has put a good string of games together, he doesn’t really seem to get rewarded with extra minutes. Davis pulled down an impressive 14 rebounds in just 25 minutes on Wednesday in Philly, and was one of the few players on the court bringing a consistent effort against the Cavs. Ed had six points, seven rebounds and a block in 18 minutes on Friday, and sparked the team in the third quarter, but when Aaron Gray fouled out in the fourth quarter, Casey elected to go with Amir Johnson, who was the vastly inferior player in this game. I’m at the point where I think Casey is trying to send a message. Does anyone else see it?

5-¬†Andrea Bargnani’s final statline of 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals seems decent at first glance, but when you consider that Bargnani had 13 points in the first quarter and hit his first six shots, then his line of 19 points on 8-of-22 shooting shows you the massive letdown that his overall game was on Friday.

6- An otherwise outstanding defensive performance was spoiled by a horrible fourth quarter for the Raptors. Toronto held Cleveland to just 51 points on 29 per cent shooting through three quarters (a combination of solid Raptors’ defence and half-assed Cavaliers’ offence), but allowed the Cavs to shoot 9-of-14 for 33 fourth quarter points to erase a 12-point deficit heading into the final frame. The tide began to turn when the Raptors left Antawn Jamison wide open behind the arc on three straight possessions. Jamison would go on to score 16 of his 25 points in the fourth.

Bonus: At 20-36, the Raptors still sit seventh from the bottom in the standings, just a half-game ahead of the fourth worst record, but also only two games behind the ninth worst record. That’s the difference right now between heading into the lottery with the guarantee of getting a top-seven pick or the uncertainty of being able to fall all the way down to 12.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 38 Min, 28 Pts, 10-16 FG, 1-2 3PT, 7-8 FT, 4 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 4 TO

Cavaliers Player of the Game: Antawn Jamison – 39 Min, 25 Pts, 8-16 FG, 3-5 3PT, 6-8 FT, 8 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk, 1 TO