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Cleveland Cavaliers buried by Toronto Raptors as starters busted in 118-107 loss

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — The weather outside was terrible. And there was nothing delicious.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had their five-game winning streak snapped by the ill-tempered Toronto Raptors, 118-107. It is Cleveland’s first loss at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse since Dec. 9. The Cavs are yet to beat Toronto this season, with the Raptors clinching the season series as a result of Wednesday night’s triumph.

“They kicked us out, to be honest with you,” said team leader Donovan Mitchell after the loss. “You can say there are nights like that, but after a win like the one we had against Milwaukee, it was kind of upsetting to go out the way we did as a group, especially the starters. I put it in the initial five. We’ll be better, learn from it and move on, but it’s definitely hard to come out the way we did as a group.”

A blizzard warning in the area caused havoc on the roads, which led to a half-full arena. Typically, it takes Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff, who lives in a West Side suburb, about 25 minutes to get to work. On Friday night, that treacherous journey took almost an hour. Players had similar problems getting to the city center. For most, travel time has been doubled.

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Even though there were conversations with the championship throughout the day about the possibility of postponement, the game went ahead as scheduled.

It looked like only one team showed up.

“You go out of the gate and give up (39) points in the first quarter, that means you’re just not ready to play,” Bickerstaff said.

The Raptors, who went into the night trailing in six of their last seven games, had 69 points in the first half – tied for second most against the Cavs in all time this season.

Things didn’t get better for Cleveland in the third quarter.

Trailing by 16 points at halftime, the lethargic Cavs, who looked ready to start their holiday celebrations early, allowed the Raptors to open the third quarter on an 11-2 streak, increasing their lead to 25. Two possessions later, the margin widened to a game-high 26, forcing an irritated Bickerstaff to call a timeout.

After the stoppage at the 9:25 mark, the coach wanted to send a clear message to his starting five – Mitchell, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Bickerstaff made wholesale changes, pulling all five struggling starters in favor of the reserves.

“It was the perfect thing to do. We weren’t there. We didn’t show up,” said Mitchell. “You look for guys who want to come in and take the energy. We didn’t answer the call, we deserved to be on the bench by that time. And I would have thought it would be the whole game, just based on our game. Sometimes you need it. Give a big credit to the guys that came. JB did the right thing. We weren’t supposed to be outside and it looked bad. And the other guys supported us.

Despite this energetic quintet cutting the lead in half around three minutes into the third, the Raptors regained control and were ahead by 20 in three quarters.

Cleveland needed a miracle on Christmas Eve.

Bickerstaff was back in the starting lineup – and they opened the quarter with a 7-0 run, sending a temporary jolt through the arena. Midway through the quarter, Toronto’s lead was down to 12. The Cavs got closer to nine. But they couldn’t dig all the way out of the deep hole. Toronto led for 46 minutes on Wednesday night – another dominant performance against the Cavs, who looked to struggle with the Raptors’ length, athleticism and physicality for the third time this season.

“When you foul the whole game – and they’re really good at that – they can foul the whole game and the referees won’t charge on every possession,” Mitchell said. “You have to give them credit. They are physical. We left hoping certain things would go our way, waiting for foul calls that didn’t exist. They were just the aggressor. We were on our heels all night.

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Toronto, the worst 3-point shooting team in the league, went 19-of-37 on triples. Nearly half of his shots made went beyond the arc. It was a 3-point avalanche.

“We weren’t playing defense,” Bickerstaff said.

OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam each scored 26 points to keep up with the Raptors. Scottie Barnes, who defeated Mobley for Rookie of the Year last season, contributed 25. Against the best defense in the league, Toronto shot 50% from the field and 51.4% from deep.

Cleveland was led by All-Star point guard Garland, who had 17 points. Mitchell struggled throughout, finishing with just 12 points on 4-of-16 from the field.

The Cavs walked through the snow and entered the game looking to build on their biggest win of the season against Milwaukee two nights earlier. But this response was far from the championship level – the heights that they are trying to reach this season.

“The disappointing part was our response to success,” said Bickerstaff. “That’s what this league is all about at the end of the day. You win a game on a Wednesday night in December, it means nothing. I don’t think our response to winning a few games was what it needed to be.

“I think when you’re successful you tend to feel comfortable and the great thing about the NBA is that as soon as you feel comfortable someone kicks you in the face and Toronto is the right team to do that. The style they play, the physicality they play with, if you’re high on your horse they’ll take you down quickly and I think they showed us that tonight.

back in action

Lamar Stevens returned from a three-game absence with a sore right knee. Playing restricted, Stevens came off the bench on Friday night. He added six points and four rebounds in 15 minutes.

out running

During a brilliant first half, Toronto ran repeatedly in transition, scoring 22 points on the break compared to just six for Cleveland. The final tally in that category was 27-12 in favor of the Raptors.


The Cavs will wrap up their six home games with a showdown against the rising Brooklyn Nets on Monday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm

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