August 23, 2014

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Raptors 120, Cavaliers 105: Latest rout keeps skid alive

CLEVELAND — Ted Williams, the homeless man and convicted felon who is gaining national attention due to his so-called golden voice, may want to weigh his options before accepting the Cavaliers’ much-publicized job offer.

While the 53-year-old Williams was reportedly on a plane to New York for an appearance on “The Today Show,” the Cavs were further cementing their status as the worst team in the NBA, falling 120-105 to the not-very-good Toronto Raptors on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

Cleveland (8-27) has now lost eight straight and 18 of its last 19, its lone victory since Nov. 27 coming in overtime against the New York Knicks on Dec. 18. The Cavs, who last won on the road on Nov. 9, now begin a five-game western swing.

More photos below.

“It’s not rocket science,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said after once again ripping his defense, which allowed Toronto to shoot .568 from the field overall and an even .500 from beyond the arc (9-for-18). “Seriously, it really isn’t. It’s just guys being a little more aggressive, having a little more pride.”

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Losing to Toronto (12-23), which had just four road victories coming in and is the worst 3-point shooting team in the league, should not be easy, but the Cavs had absolutely no trouble turning an early 15-point lead into another run-of-the-mill 15-point loss at home.

After scoring 38 points in the first quarter, Cleveland was outscored 94-67 over the final three periods, including 40-25 in the second quarter and 30-21 in the fourth.

Those numbers, however, do not begin to show just how pathetic the well-rested Cavs — they had not played since Sunday — were against a bad Raptors team that had played on the road the previous night.

“Guys are frustrated, but we need to be frustrated when teams score as easily as they do on us,” said veteran Antawn Jamison, who defended Scott’s defensive principles. “That’s when we need to be upset, not because of missing shots at the offensive end.”

Toronto center Andrea Bargnani had 25 points, guard Leandro Barbosa came off the bench for a season-high-tying 22 and starting point guard Jose Calderon, who was playing on a bad ankle, had 20 points and a season-high 17 assists.

Then there was the immortal Julian Wright, who not only had a season-high 15 points off the bench, but also a season-high nine boards, plus five assists.

“We have no communication whatsoever on the defensive end,” Jamison said.

Apparently, that lack of communication extends even to an inability to yell “Help!”

“We just didn’t guard tonight,” Scott said. “Bottom line: We didn’t guard anybody on the floor.”

The Cavs were at least well-rounded. In addition to giving up their customary 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc, they also found a way to allow 62 points in the paint. Many of the latter were by Toronto’s guards, who simply overpowered smaller and/or weaker Cleveland players inside, especially in the fourth quarter.

“When you’re one-on-one guarding a guy, you’ve got to take it personal,” Scott said. “When I was watching the game, it didn’t hurt (Cleveland players when their man scored). It’s got to hurt.”

The Cavs did get another great offensive night from Jamison, who scored 32 points in his ever-developing role as Cleveland’s new World B. Free, while rookie Christian Eyenga had 16 points in the second NBA game of his life.

Those numbers, however, were trumped by other issues, including the continued floundering of young J.J. Hickson. This time, Hickson didn’t play at all because he failed to show up Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts, where a few players were told to report on what was an off day for most of the Cavs.

“I don’t want to get into that,” the 22-year-old said when asked why he didn’t show up. “It is what it is. We’ve discussed it and it’s time to move on.”

Not just yet.

The Cavs, who learned before the game they would be without Anthony Parker due to back issues, didn’t even have Jamario Moon on the active roster. That left Alonzo Gee, signed on Dec. 28, as the team’s starting small forward.

Daniel Gibson, back after missing two games with a bruised thigh, sprained his ankle in the third period and did not come back, which led to the previously unused Manny Harris starting the fourth period, when a six-point deficit quickly became 13.

With the Cavs now headed on the road for five games, the seemingly impossible is actually highly plausible: Things could still get a lot worse.

“Every time I think we’re taking a step forward, we take two steps backward, especially at the defensive end,” Scott said. “We just have to figure out a way, every single night, to have the type of effort I know we’re capable of.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.