When the Cleveland Cavaliers selected forward LeBron James with the number one selection of the 2003 NBA Draft, he had the luxury of playing off the bench and learning the Association his first few months on the team. It was not until later in his rookie campaign when the club traded Ricky Davis to the Boston Celtics that James was thrust into the starting lineup. Cleveland rookie point guard Kyrie Irving who wss the number one pick this past June has not been afforded that luxury; the Cavaliers released the man who was to be his mentor Baron Davis, earlier this month via the “NBA Amnesty Clause.”
Irving found himself in the starting lineup Monday night as the Cavaliers hosted the Toronto Raptors at the Quicken Loan Arena to start off the NBA season and frankly was not up to the task. The 19-year-old former Duke player scored just 6 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal in his debut; while his team lost to the Raptors 104-96. The visitors jumped ahead in the second quarter and Cleveland never regained their footing. Toronto shot a scalding 53.2% (42-79) and had six players in double-figures led by Jose Calderon who recorded a double-double with 15 points.
Veteran point guard Ramon Sessions came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers with 18 points in the loss while Cleveland’s other first round draft pick; forward Tristan Thompson had a strong debut off the bench adding 14 points. The other new addition to the club’s starting lineup veteran Omri Casspi whom the team acquired in a trade with the Sacramennto Kings; also was not impressive in his first game with the franchise as he went 0-4 from the floor and scored just two points.
The opening period remained tight throughout as neither team led by more then four points during the quarter. Leandro Barbosa drove the lane putting the ball in the bucket at the buzzer and the contest would be knotted up at 23-23 at the end of the first. The two opponents remained close through the first few minutes of the second; however Toronto would soon see the Cavaliers in their rear-view mirror. With 12 seconds on the clock DeMar DeRozan sank a a shot and the Raptors walked into the locker room at the half on top 52-42.
Cleveland never got any closer than being seven points down in the third and Toronto led 78-70 at the conclusion of the period. The home team had one more run left in them; as Daniel Gibson drove the lane putting the rock through the hole with 9:23 left in the contest making in an 82-80 affair. However the Cavaliers would soon fall behind again and the Raptors won the game with ease.
Caldeon had 15 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds while DeRozan also added 15 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds and a steal. Barbosa came off the bench with 14 points and 4 assists while Ed Davis also came off of the pine putting up 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. Center Amir Johnson racked up a double-double with 13 points, 13 boards, 3 blocks and a steal while Andrea Bargnani also scored 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Jerryd Bayless chipped in ten points in the victory.
Sessions scored 18 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal while Antwan Jamison knocked down 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Anderson Varejao recorded a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds,an assist and a steal while Thompson had 14 points and 5 rebounds in his NBA debut. Alonzo Gee came off the bench with 13 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals. Toronto will host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday while Cleveland heads to the Palace to take on the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.