National Basketball Association wrap: LeBron James rips own team as Raptors thrashes Cavs

Kevin Love Tristan Thompson

Sure, the Raptors embarrassed the Cavaliers 133-99 without Kyle Lowry and with DeMar DeRozan held to 13 points.

CAVALIERS: Thomas is expected to rest when Cleveland concludes a back-to-back by visiting IN tonight. Is this just a temporary slide or are there greater problems for the Cavs to address?

It's been a awful stretch of games for Cleveland, as they now find themselves 6.5 games behind the Boston Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference, and 3.5 games behind the Raptors in second. Consider Lowry questionable at best for Saturday's matchup with the Golden State Warriors. Next up is a visit to IN before returning home to host Golden State.

There was also a dip in the visitors' form, with LeBron James and company coming into the night 4-6 in their last 10 games.

Irving's replacement, Isaiah Thomas didn't help James' fury as the recovering point guard (hip) knocked down just 2 of 15 shots. The Rockets are still without Harden, who has a hamstring problem and will hopefully be back in a week or so.

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What Cleveland couldn't account for was DeRozan's uptick in passing, as the Compton, Calif., native stepped up in Lowry's absence and dished a game-high eight assists. Whether we lost the game tonight or won the game tonight doesn't define who we are. "Once again, we are back to the beginning of the season". While it's an offensive game, a team needs to stop an opponent at some point.

"Uh, we just want to get better", he repeated. "They good." It's true, the Raptors finally got a game on national US television and they put on quite a performance. Part of the Raptors success was DeRozan's ability to read Cleveland's defence and find passing lanes. They are the only team in the league to rank in the top five in both 3-point attempts per game (3rd, 33.0) and 3-point percentage (4th, 37.9%). Jaylen Brown scored 21 points and Marcus Morris had 19 with eight rebounds as the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics stretched their National Basketball Association winning streak to seven games. Defensively everybody's on an island playing defense by themselves.

The Bucks (22-18) lost at home to Toronto and in IN, but they also won in Washington and at home over Orlando. Yet, they were 22nd a year ago in defensive rating, and it didn't hurt them until meeting Golden State in the Finals. Does he "like" seeing his former team in disarray, or does he "like" seeing his former teammate stepping up as a leader to get his team back in order?

Maybe the defensive slippage is the biggest difference, but the Cavs have increased their defensive intensity, at least in the Eastern Conference playoffs, when needed.

But don't discredit Toronto's role in Cleveland's debacle on TNT. They'll host NY and Portland this week before heading to Orlando. It makes them fun. However, it is a small sample size and the Timberwolves still have to prove that this is sustainable.

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