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Six random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 103-99 loss to the host Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
1. OK, we’ve found an early-season weakness for the Cavaliers. In their previous two road games, they played some of their worst basketball when it meant the most. Cause for concern? Well, yes, sure. Reason for widespread panic? Um, no. Not exactly. But if you’re the Cavs and their fans, it can be maddening. And it cannot become a habit.
2. The Cavs looked exhausted in allowing an 82-all tie turn into a 9-2 run by the Raptors. In a pivotal stretch, the Cavs missed eight straight shots. And it seemed like every time you blinked, the Raptors were finishing another “and-one” opportunity. “If we’re going to foul, we’ve got to make it count,” Cavs center Tristan Thompson told reporters in Toronto.
3. Speaking of free throws, LeBron James (24 points) and Kevin Love (21 points, 13 rebounds) were the only two Cavs to attempt a shot from the line. Not for the fourth quarter — for the entire game. And Love was just 2-of-4. Worse, the Raptors buried the Cavs in the paint with a 52-28 scoring edge. That’s just a lack of aggressiveness and settling for too many perimeter shots on the Cavs’ end.
4. Coach David Blatt partially blamed some of the issues on fatigue, and that’s entirely fair. The Cavs are still missing several major players — such as Kyrie Irving, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert. Matthew Dellavedova was also out with a sore calf, and if there’s one guy who can keep the energy going in the fourth quarter, it’s the relentless Delly.
5. Nonetheless, as James indicated after, this is a man’s league and there’s no room for excuses. “We have to have a bunker mentality when we go on the road,” he said. “You gotta understand it’s you guys vs. everyone else, vs. the fans, vs. the opposing group. Adversity is going to happen. We have to learn how to play on the road again, which we did last year.”
6. LeBron makes a valid point. The Cavs (11-4) are unbeaten at home but just 3-4 in opposing gyms. They’ve lost to the Raptors, Bucks, Bulls and Pistons. The first three of those teams made the playoffs last season, and the Pistons look like they’ll challenge this year. But each game was winnable. The Cavs are finishing off people at home. Clearly, they haven’t done that with much consistency on the road. It’s far from desperation time, but it’s something that needs shored up.
Bonus Dribble: There’s no shame in losing to Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors (10-6). They were recently right there with the undefeated Warriors on the road, then the Warriors got a few favorable calls and that was that. And all of this would be more concerning for the Cavs if Irving and Shumpert were playing.
Bonus Dribble II: Have a great Thanksgiving. If you’re reading this, I am thankful for you. And that’s no joke.
Video: LeBron James talks physicality after loss to Raptors.