Cavs Can't Cap Comeback in Opener

Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with seven assists in his Cavaliers debut.
David Liam Kyle
NBAE/Getty Images
Like most teams after the extended offseason, the new-look Cavaliers might take a while to find their true identity. That 66-game search began on Monday night at The Q.

In their season debut, the Wine and Gold got out of the gate slowly and watched the Raptors build a 15-point edge midway through the third quarter. Ramon Sessions and Alonzo Gee keyed a fourth-quarter rally that got Cleveland to within a deuce before Toronto pulled away for the 104-96 win.

Monday’s game marked the debuts of rookies Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, whose premier made for mixed results. Kyrie Irving got the start at the point in his pro debut – going just 2-for-12 from the floor for six points. But Irving, who closed the game on the floor, did lead the squad with seven assists and committed just a single turnover. Thompson was more impressive, going 4-of-6 from the floor for 12 points and five boards in 17 active minutes of action.

“I did some good things on the defensive end, but I’m not satisfied unless we get the W,” said the Toronto native. “So we’ve got things to work on and we’re going to continue to work.”

Irving’s backup, Ramon Sessions, led both clubs with 18 points – notching 10 of them in the third quarter. The fifth-year pro went 6-for-12 from the floor, adding four boards, six helpers and a steal.

The game was knotted at 23-apiece after one quarter, but Toronto shot 63 percent in the second to take a 10-point edge at intermission. Jose Calderon’s three-pointer gave the Raptors their biggest lead, 67-52, in the third period. Daniel Gibson’s layup with 9:24 remaining in the contest cut Toronto’s lead, 82-80. But the Cavs would get no closer.

Gibson finished with a dozen points off Cleveland’s bench. Antawn Jamison led Cleveland’s starters with 15, followed by Anderson Varejao – who chipped in with 14 points and team-high 10 rebounds.

  • At Monday morning’s shootaround, Kyrie Irving spoke about the butterflies he’d have on Monday in front of a sellout crowd at The Q. He didn’t know the exact number, but was informed by Cavs PR. He was asked after the game if he remembered it.

    “Twenty-thousand, five-sixty-two,” he responded, without hesitation. “You only have to tell me something one time.”

  • Ramon Sessions went 2-for-4 from three-point range in Monday’s opener. Sessions, who’s attempted only 71 treys (making 13) in his entire career, has never attempted more than three in a single game. He canned two tries – the first time he’s drained more than one in a game.

  • Mychel Thompson, who survived the final cut in lieu of Manny Harris on Friday, was inactive for Monday’s opener, but he was still feeling the holiday joy over making it to the NBA.

    “Even though I’m away from my family, this is the best Christmas gift I could’ve gotten,” said the son of Laker great Mychal Thompson (and brother of Warriors first-rounder, Klay, and White Sox prospect, Trayce). He said he knew -- unofficially -- when assistant coaches began congratulating him at the start of practice on Friday.

    In the Cavs locker room, his nameplate still says “Biggs/Thompson.” That’s about to change.

  • In the Cavaliers new game introduction on Q-Tube, a young man in the video extols Cleveland’s virtues in a poem. You’ll see it at a home game this season.

    The man is 22-year Akeem, a CSU studying Special Ed and Nutrition and sporting a 3.9 GPA. At the age of 9, Akeem, his brother and his mother became homeless in Cleveland and he spent most of his life between the ages of 9 and 14 living in shelters and temporarily living on the couches of friends and family. The young poet now works in the valet stand at Metro Health hospital and is working on his education.

  • As they do every year, the Cavaliers wore their road wine uniforms for the home opener.

  • Omri Casspi made a quiet Cavaliers debut, finishing with just two points on 0-of-4 shooting, adding two assists, one board and a steal.

  • Seated along the baseline perpendicular to the Cavs bench were Browns cornerback Joe Haden along with local rapper, Machine Gun Kelly. Also in the house was Browns wideout and return man, Josh Cribbs.

  • To the surprise of many, Tristan Thompson was Byron Scott’s first big off the bench, making his pro debut with 3:28 left in the first quarter. The freshman from Texas scored all 12 of his points on dunks and free throws.

    Ryan Hollins – who finished with zero points and a single board in 15 minutes of action – backed up Varejao at the 5. Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody each got DNP-CD’s. When asked postgame why he went with Hollins, Coach Scott simply reasoned: “Ryan was the backup tonight.”

  • The Cavs are 4-6 in their last 10 season openers.

  • How Alonzo Gee didn’t hurt (or kill) himself on a dangerous high-altitude spill with 9:26 remaining in the second quarter was simply amazing. It was every bit as hard as the fall that knocked Andrew Bogut out of the playoffs (and part of the next season), but Gee simply picked himself up and moved on.

    Coach Scott was asked if he thought Gee hurt himself worse than he did.

    “Yeah I did,” said Scott. “Especially the way he fell, it was pretty awkward. I think the adrenaline that was flowing is probably what kept him going. I think he’ll feel it tomorrow morning a little bit.”

  • The Cavaliers attempted twice as many free throws (28) free throws as Toronto (13). The Raptors also went the entire night without converting a fastbreak basket.

  • The Wine and Gold hit the road for their next two – taking on Detroit this Wednesday and Indiana on Friday. They return home to face New Jersey on New Year’s Day.