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These are the growing pains.
The young Cavaliers gave the World Champs all they could handle on Thursday night – cutting a two-touchdown lead to just one in the closing moments. But some costly turnovers kept them from getting over the hump as the Raptors kept Cleveland winless at home during the month of January, taking the 115-109 decision at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Trailing by 10 with just under half a quarter to play, the Cavaliers went on a 9-0 run – capped by Kevin Love’s long triple – to get to within a single point with 3:52 to play. Cleveland kept it close from there, but committed three turnovers in the final 36 seconds to sink any hopes of upsetting Toronto in the end.
Turnovers were a big part of the story for the Cavaliers – committing 23 miscues that led to 25 Raptors points. Both teams shot the ball fairly well and the Cavs dominated on the boards, 52-37, but the Raptors went to the line 28 times to 14 for the Wine & Gold.
Kevin Love finished with 23 points in the loss, going 8-of-13 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from long-range to wot with five boards, four assists and a steal.
Collin Sexton added 23 points of his own on 9-of-17 shooting, adding four boards and four assists.
Darius Garland was back in the starting lineup after taking Tuesday night off, chipping in with 16 points on 7-of-16 shooting to go with five boards, a team-high eight assists and a steal.
Larry Nance Jr. kept up his strong play off the bench – netting double-figures for the sixth straight game, finishing with 13 points, nine boards and a block. Kevin Porter Jr. also tallied 13 points off the bench, but he was responsible for seven of Cleveland’s 23 miscues – including a pair of errant passes in the closing moments.
Tristan Thompson led both squads with 12 rebounds, snagging five of those off the offensive glass.
The Raptors were paced by Serge Ibaka’s 26 points, going 10-of-14 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Kyle Lowry added 23 points in the win, with Fred VanVleet leading both teams with 12 assists.
Following Kevin Porter Jr.'s cross court pass, Kevin Love handles the ball and dimes Larry Nance Jr. for the slam dunk.
The Cavaliers might be struggling to close games, but no one could fault their effort on Thursday.
The Cavs were within two late in the third quarter, but the Raptors closed the period on an 11-1 run, taking a 14-point edge into the fourth. But Kevin Porter Jr.’s three-pointer got the Cavs going and they’d eventually cut Toronto’s lead to one on three occasions in the final quarter.
Darius Garland had a chance to tie the game with 1:18 to play, but split the free throws allowing Toronto to maintain the lead. Norman Powell drilled a three-pointer on the Raptors next possession and the Cavs would get no closer than four the rest of the way.
19.5, .464, .400 … Kevin Love’s scoring average, along with his shooting percentage from the floor and from three-point range over the month of January.
In the month, the 12-year veteran scored at least 20 points on seven occasions, including four of his last five outings, doubling-up in three of those games and posting a 30-point night on the Pistons on January 7.
Coach John Beilein, on taking positives from Thursday’s loss …
"It’s something we can build on, but it is also very disappointing that we lost. We don’t go out there trying to lose, we want to win every game when we step on that court in between those lines. It just shows our growth, because last time we played them they beat us a little bit. We played them down to the wire and it was really good tonight."
Enjoy the best broadcast calls of the night from Cavaliers Radio Network's Tim Alcorn and 87.7 La Mega's Rafa Hernandez-Brito.
The Cavaliers tip off the month of February with a visit from the struggling Warriors on Saturday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
The following Monday, the Knicks come to town followed by Cleveland’s only road game before the All-Star Break – traveling to Oklahoma City next Wednesday to take on Chris Paul and the Thunder. After a three-day respite, the Wine & Gold wrap up the season’s first half with visits from the Clippers (Feb. 9) and Hawks (Feb. 12).