If you’re looking for a reason why the Toronto Raptors got beat by the Cavs on Wednesday night, look no further than the fact that Jason Kapono, one of the deadliest shooters in the game, missed two-thirds of the shots he took. Yikes. Toronto shot an abhorrent 36.5% from the field as a team and it’s impossible to win an NBA basketball game when you miss that many shots. The Raptors’ frustration came to a head with 5 minutes remaining when their coach, Jay Triano, got ejected for arguing with officials… for something. I’m not sure what. I’m not even sure Triano knows what he was screaming about. Whatever.
The good news for Cavaliers fans is that Toronto didn’t shoot that poorly by accident. The Cavs played the kind of stifling, active defense that we grew accustomed to seeing from them through December. January marked a period in the season where defense suffered because of all the injuries incurred by the Cavs. Now Z is back and healthy and Wednesday saw the return of Tarence Kinsey.
Kinsey isn’t going to blow you away with his offense (he only scored 5 points), but his perimeter defense and hustle take a backseat to no one. He never seems to give up on a play and his teammates feed off of that. Who says a player has to come off the bench to provide “energy?” Kinsey made his first start for the Cavs in this game and seemed to light a fire on the defensive end from the middle of the first quarter on. At one point in the third quarter, he missed a tough shot but chased down the guy who collected the rebound. He then poked the ball away from the Toronto player, and threw the ball off the guy’s back as he was falling out of bounds, getting a throw in for Cleveland. Enough said. He’s a constant disruptive force.
LeBron James had 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Just your typical, ho-hum near triple double for LeBron. He started off very slowly and still can’t hit a three-pointer to save his life. But he drove the lane well, created for his teammates, and started showing some post up moves. That’s right, the last component of LeBron’s dominant inside game is starting to show up. He knew Shawn Marion couldn’t out muscle him, so LeBron continually backed the new Raptor up and maneuvered around him to score. I feel about this the same way I feel about LeBron taking a guy to the hole off the dribble: he can do it whenever he wants to and score. Let’s hope he keeps developing that part of his game and stops launching the “LeBron 20-Foot Special.”
Mo Williams shot the ball great, moved the ball well and played good defense. I love seeing Mo smiling on the bench, because that usually means the Cavs just destroyed somebody. Zydrunas Ilgauskas led all scorers with 22. He shot well and added 6 rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Anderson Varejao led both teams with 14 rebounds. He also had 3 great blocked shots, which is a big chunk of the Cavs total of 7 blocks on Wednesday.
Off the bench, Wally Szczerbiak and J.J. Hickson contributed well on both ends, while TAFKAB (The Artist Formerly Known As Boobie) continued to struggle mightily. He shot horribly from all over the floor. Despite playing the same amount of minutes as Wally and taking more shots, TAFKAB had 8 less points. He needs to get his head on straight or he’s going to find himself on the bottom of the depth chart. In fact, he already is on the bottom and needs to climb out before Delonte West and Sasha Pavlovic return from injury. Right now both Wally and Kinsey are far more valuable to the team than TAFKAB.
I am rarely 100% satisfied with a Cavs performance. They’re too good and my expectations are way too high. Such is the case after the Toronto game, because the Cavs turned the ball over 20 times. They played with a significant amount of rust, especially early on, and the game was marred by several miscommunications and sloppy ball control. Against a better team, that could have been deadly. But the Cavaliers overcame that rust with great team defense and patient ball movement on offense.
The result was a nice win on the road to start this last stretch of the season. 30 more games to go and the Cavs seem ready to get back into a rhythm and win the majority of those remaining games. Next up is the Bucks in Milwaukee on Friday.