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Two for One: Cleveland Cavaliers fail to guard, fall to Toronto Raptors 133-113

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A somewhat promising game for the young Cavs can’t overcome phantom defense

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

This was a hard NBA game to evaluate. The Cavs were not really competitive at any point in time in terms of keeping things within single digits, and ultimately lost by 20 points. They gave up a billion points. But the score also stayed relatively close, and the Cavs hovered around being down 11 to 15 points for most of the night. There were a few times the Cavs had wide open looks that could have brought things within eight, and some of the guys on the bench were part of lineups that outscored the Raptors.

Was Toronto really threatened? No. Did they have to play their starters deep into the fourth quarter? Yes. Were those starters pushed to their fifth gear? Probably not.

The Toronto Raptors 133, your Cleveland Cavaliers 113.

You have to feel good about the young Cavs

Collin Sexton and Darius Garland combined for three turnovers in the first three minutes of the game (one may not have been recorded as a turnover, it was an errant pass into Tristan Thompson), but finished with just three turnovers between them. That’s pretty good! They combined for 45 points on 30 shots, nine assists, and just the three aforementioned turnovers. If you were looking for efficiency, they delivered. Sexton continued to fight his way into the lane and didn’t settle for many jumpers. Garland took advantage of playing some without Sexton or Garland with the second unit and attempted eight threes.

Kevin Porter Jr. was effective off the bench, and made some nice reads distributing the ball. Larry Nance Jr. made a positive impact. It was a good night for GM Koby Altman.

You do not have to feel good about the defense

When the young players are trying to figure out their offense it’s hard to ask them to defend. I’m not sure Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love were particularly interested in it either. The Raptors scored at least 29 points in ever quarter, and shot 58% from the field and 50% from three point range. There’s some variance in those numbers, but no one can deny that Toronto was extremely comfortable offensively.

The Raptors are a good team and you don’t want to take anything away from them, but the fears about the Cavs coming into the season that they’d struggle to defend appear to be well-founded. They need to recommit to whatever it was working in the first couple weeks of the season. The schedule gets a bit easier, so we’ll see if they can do it.

I’m not sure what to say about Kevin Love

He felt pretty irrelevant in this one. He made a three to open scoring for Cleveland and then scored just six points the rest of the way. He’s not making a defensive difference, and the Cavs starters are really struggling. It’s not all on him, but he’s not making any discernible impact in making things better. He’s in a bad position; I’d just like to see him able to make things a little easier for himself and others.