Archive for the ‘Cleveland Cavaliers’ Category

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Jamal Magloire
Cleveland: Kyrie Irving, Anthony Parker, Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao

Welcome, Raptors fans. This will be my ninth season covering the Raptors on this blog — yes, I took some time off somewhere in the mid-2000s, but let’s not split hairs. Unlike any other season I can recall, I’m going into this one with the full knowledge and acceptance that the Raptors will be one of the worst teams in the National Basketball Association. I have not only accepted that fate, I’ve made peace with it — and so should you.

Just because the Raptors are probably going to finish with one of the worst records in the league this season, that doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun. For me, the joy in these games will be watching the progress of the Raptors’ young players and in watching some of the exciting stars and prospects on the Raptors’ opponents. With the Raptors’ first opponent of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers, I’m looking forward to the NBA debuts of first overall pick Kyrie Irving and Brampton, Ontario’s own Tristan Thompson.

I’m not planning on having a set form or function for these game threads this season. In last season’s game threads, I did a “Five Questions” piece for each game that was supposed to make things easier but actually ended up being kind of a grind for certain games that had no real drama due to the sad state of the teams involved. Even the pregame music video was a pain in the ass because I usually tried to make it relevant to the Raptors’ opponents or the city they were in, and that sometimes took longer than it reasonably should have.

This season, I’m freestylin’ it. Sometimes, I’ll write about the game in here, sometimes I might rant about something completely unrelated. I’ll put the relevant game info at the top so you can see it right away, and if you don’t want to read through whatever nonsense I’m spewing out on that particular day, you can scroll down and give your thoughts in the comments before and during the game. I think Joseph Casciaro — who has pretty much taken over this blog, as you might have noticed — is going to publish a recap post after most games. I’ve encouraged him to freestyle those posts as well.

The way I see it, this season is one we simply have to endure together, as Raptors fans. I’m not going to make this any more difficult on myself than I need to, and hopefully you’ll stick around for the bumpy ride. One thing I will try to offer you is some pre-game laughs with a funny video I’ll include at the end of each of those posts. We’ll certainly need the laughs this season.

Since Irving and Thompson will be performing auditions of a sort tonight, here’s one of my favorite sketches from the awesome Mr. Show with Bob and David. If you’re not familiar with this show, it was a sketch comedy show that ran on HBO from 1995 to 1998 and it’s been hugely influential to a lot of comedy writers and performers, including TheScore’s own Basketball Jones. I’ll probably be going to this well a lot this season, since they have a lot of classic sketches that have held up well over time.

Note: I won’t always tweet during Raptors games, since I’m often required to PVR the games and watch them later. I will be live-tweeting tonight’s opener, so feel free to follow me @scottcarefoot if you’re not doing so already.

14 886 (It looked like a lot less than that) fans ventured to the Air Canada Centre for this meeting between two teams with a combined record of 37-117. And really, when you hear numbers like that, you can’t blame fans for not scooping up tickets.

For those who did show up, they were “treated” to an excruciatingly painful basketball game. Just as there was no energy emanating from the stands, there was even less to go around on the depleted Raptors’ bench.

The Raps got off to a sluggish start for the second night in a row, and allowed the dismal Cavs to open the ball game with a big run and build confidence.

Reggie Evans was the only Raptor who seemed to know what the hell he was doing on the floor in the first half. To emphasize how horrible Toronto was in the first 24 minutes, consider that Reggie scored 10 of the team’s first 30 points.

To make matters worse, the Raptors, as usual, showed no signs of concern for the defensive end of the court. It showed in the fact that the offensively anaemic Cavs, who average just 95 points per game, had put up 60 in the first half on 60 per cent shooting and were up 20.

The ACC faithful made the young Raptors aware of their displeasure, sending the Raps to the locker room with a serenade of boos, and rightfully so.

The third quarter looked like an extension of the opening half at first, but the Raptors began to make their own run towards the end of the quarter, and a hard, flagrant foul committed on Joey Graham, by James Johnson, seemed to create a spark around the arena.

The little run had the deficit down to 13 going into the fourth quarter.

Alexis Ajinca, yes, Alexis Ajinca, DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless continued to power the Raptors’ rally in the fourth quarter, and a Sonny Weems’ three-pointer had the suddenly cold-shooting Cavs’ lead down to five.

The game went back and forth between five and 10 points after that, and  despite the fact that Bayless was keeping the Raptors alive, the 22-point hole they had dug themselves proved to be too much, as did Baron Davis’ clutch shooting down the stretch.

I’d love to say it was a valiant effort from the young Raptors, or that their comeback attempt was admirable, but the truth is that a quarter-and-a-half of good, tough basketball does not excuse their piss-poor performance through two-and-a-half quarters.

There shouldn’t be many positives to discuss after a loss to Cleveland, but there were a few bright spots for the Raptors. Reggie Evans finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes, DeMar DeRozan came on in the second half to finish with 19 points and Sonny Weems finished with 17 points on just 10 shots.

But the real shining presence for the Raptors of late continues to be the emergence of Jerryd Bayless as a very capable point guard. After being sent back to the bench to accomodate Jose Calderon, Bayless still had another solid game.

If this season truly was supposed to be about youth development and an eye to the future, then one has to question why Bayless wasn’t given the start tonight with Jose coming back after an injury. The choice for the final four games should be simple: Bayless should get the nod.

Now there are those that actually claim to cheer against the Raptors right now, in order to attain a higher probability of winning the lottery. Believe me, I understand this thinking to a certain extent, but the way I see it, a home loss to a team like the Cavs undoes everything that a young team can gain from impressive wins, like the recent W’s over the Thunder, Bulls and Magic.

Speaking of the lottery situation, the Raptors (at 21-57) now sit in a tie with the Wizards for the 28th and 27th spots overall. That would mean the Raptors would most likely receive the third or fourth pick in the draft. Unless something drastic changes in the final week of the season, that’s exactly where the Raps should finish up.

If you were wondering why Amir Johnson suddenly joined the walking wounded tonight, it’s because Amir sustained an ankle injury during the pre-game warmup.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 30 Min, 28 Pts, 10-18 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 6-8 FT, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Cavaliers Player of the Game: J.J. Hickson – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 9-17 FG, 10-14 FT, 10 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 27 Min, 4 Pts, 0-7 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 1 Reb, 9 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO (I could have easily given this title to Ed Davis tonight as well)

Baron Davis and Anthony Parker

The battle for the draft lottery continues as the team with the league’s worst record (the Cavaliers are 16-61) plays the team tied for the third-worst record (the Raptors and Wizards are both 21-56). The Cavs have actually been pretty feisty lately with three wins in their last seven games, including their memorable thrashing of the Heat last week. There’s actually a good chance the Raptors could lose this game, which is great news for those of you belonging to Raptors Tank Nation.

Injury report

Toronto: Leandro Barbosa, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon are all questionable for tonight.

Cleveland: Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison and Semih Erden are all expected to miss the rest of the season.

Five questions

1. Does Kyrie Irving’s declaration for the NBA draft make it easier for you to root for the Raptors to lose their remaining five games?

2. What’s gotten into Baron Davis? He’s playing amazingly well in Cleveland, including an astonishing .455 success rate on three-point shots when he has a .321 rate from that range for his career.

3. Do you agree with Jack Armstrong’s opinion that DeMar DeRozan’s 36-point, 10 rebound performance last night is somewhat devalued because he got it against the Knicks?

4. Do you think DeRozan can develop a decent three-point shot even though he’s having one of the worst three-point shooting seasons in NBA history? (Note: His 3Pt% improved to 11.4 percent after last night’s game.)

5. With the way the Cavs have finished the season and with a guaranteed high draft pick, would you be shocked if they make the playoffs next season?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
Cleveland: Baron Davis, Anthony Parker, Alonzo Gee, J.J. Hickson, Ryan Hollins

Tonight’s pregame song is a live performance of “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders because lead singer Chrissie Hynde — easily one of the all-time badass chicks in rock — is from Akron, Ohio.

Last night, Julian Wright was the dĂ©butante at a coming-out party at Quicken Loans Arena. When he entered the game with 1:29 left in the first quarter, the Raptors were trailing 32-19. He remained on the court right through to the end of the half, when the Raptors led 66-63. In those 13 minutes of playing time, Wright had 11 points, four rebounds and four assists — he was the main reason the Raptors got back in the game.

The Raptors still led by three points when Wright re-entered the game at the 5:46 mark of the third quarter. He played the remainder of the game and helped lead the Raptors to a 15-point win. He finished the night with season-highs in minutes (31), points (15), rebounds (9), a career-high in assists (5) and an amazing plus-32 rating for the game.

What impressed me most about Wright last night was his court vision. I was reminded of the fact that he played point guard in high school by the seeing-eye assists he dished out. His ability to run the floor, score in transition and be a disruptor on defence were well established. His playmaking ability was a revelation to me.

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Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao

It’s the battle of the forsaken, free-falling franchises! The Raptors have lost three straight and have an 11-23 record while the Cavaliers have dropped seven in a row, 17 of their last 18 games, and sit (or, more accruately, lay and moan) at 8-26.

What can you say about a game like this? Both of these teams are rapidly running out of reasons to care about whether they win or lose. In spite of the Cavaliers’ virtually unceasing string of losses recently, ESPN’s Accuscore predictor still has them as slight favorites in tonight’s game. How depressing is that?

Injury report

Toronto: Sonny Weems is out, Jerryd Bayless is probable, Jose Calderon is questionable, Ronald Dupree is unmentionable because he was waived today.

Cleveland: Sadly, we won’t get to say hello to our old robotic friend, Joey Graham, because he’s out for a little while with a strained quadriceps. Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson are both expected to return to the Cavs’ lineup tonight.

Five questions

1. The Raptors have lost their last 11 games played in Cleveland. Will they finally break that streak?

2. Is that recently homeless dude with the magical voice going to introduce the Cavs’ starting lineup tonight?

3. Are angry Cavs fans starting to turn on their owner? The Cavaliers team page on Basketball-Reference.com is sponsored by “An Extremely Ticked Off Cavs Season-Ticket Holder” who wrote: “You have clicked on the Basketball-Reference.com page featuring the flotsam of the worst owner in professional sports, the Napoleonic carnival barker dwarf, Dan Gilbert. Compared to Dan Gilbert, Ted Stepien was a freakin’ genius.”

4. Does Cavs rookie Manny Harris have the best name in the NBA? I ask because “Manny” is a nickname and his real name is Corperryale L’Adorable Harris.

5. What would have been the best post-breakup song that the Cavs could have played in the introductions when LeBron James made his return? The answer is below.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani
Cleveland: Mo Williams, Manny Harris, Anthony Parker, Antawn Jamison, Leon Powe

For tonight’s pregame song, I’m going to suggest “This Love” by Pantera as a suitably angry post-breakup song that the Cavaliers should have played when LeBron returned to Quicken Loans Arena last month. It might have spooked him a little more than the crowd did. “I’d kill myself for you… I’d kill you for myself…”