Dribbles: For Cavaliers, It Was a Tale of Progress ... and Pain

Sam Amico

Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' 115-109 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

1. The Cavs gave the defending world champions a run, and these days, that's about all you can ask. They stayed with it and got back in it despite falling behind by 14.

2. This was a night the Cavs displayed grit and played a determined brand of basketball. They do it like once every three or four nights. It doesn't often result in a win, but at least it's something. It makes you think that, hey, maybe they are building a decent culture here.

3. Mostly, these games are good for the likes of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. You want your younger guys in these situations. It's called a learning experience. That's the hope, anyway.

4. As Cavs coach John Beilein said, "There's growth. Just not enough to get wins against a team like that."

5. I know, I know. It's weird to call the Raptors the "world champions" because Kawhi Leonard is no longer on the team. But this is still a group that will come right at you. The Raptors are the epitome of tough. In the eyes of many, they have overachieved. They are still 34-14 and in second place in the East. And let's not forget, they still have an All-Star starter in Pascal Siakam (19 points).

6. Kevin Love and Sexton each scored 23 on a night in which the Cavs (13-36) put forth a balanced scoring effort. "It's something we can build on," Sexton said. "We played them down to the wire."

7. Sexton, Garland (16 points) and Porter (13) were all in there at the end. Porter committed a whopping seven turnovers, including a couple of biggies with the outcome still in the balance. You could tell he was upset with himself. That's just life in the big leagues, kid.

8. Porter was man enough to own up to the mistakes. "I usually do a better job of taking care of the ball," he said. "I don't recall ever having seven turnovers in a game before. It's just a learning experience. I'm young."

9. Overall, the Cavs committed 21 turnovers, compared to 13 for the Raptors. "Forget the late ones," Beilein said. "It was the early ones just as much."

10. Larry Nance Jr. completed his strong January with 13 points, nine active rebounds, a couple of monster dunks and a shot swatted into next week. He doesn't get enough mention as part of the future of this franchise. But the Cavs are happy to have him under contract for three more seasons.

11. The trade deadline is now less than a week away. Beilein is in his first year as an NBA coach, which means it's his first year of having to deal with it. He is smart enough to know it's out of his control.

12. Beilein on if he concerns himself with the deadline: "No, not until somebody tells me something or they let me in on something. There are just too many variables. So I let the front office worry about that and just coach the next game."

13. Several Cavs are hearing their names floated about in rumors -- from Love to Tristan Thompson to John Henson. Those are all veteran players who are used to it. For Love especially, it seems to happen every year.

14. More Beilein: “If a trade does happen, then it’s a challenge to redo some things. We just can’t think about it. We just have to let the front office take care of that — they’ll do a great job. If there’s something there, that’s fine. If there’s not, we’ll move forward.”

15. For more on that very subject, check out my earlier story: Cavs, Love and Thompson in limbo with trade deadline looming.

16. Garland finished with eight assists and Thompson snared 12 rebounds. Cedi Osman scored eight.

17. The Raptors were led by Serge Ibaka, who erupted for 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Kyle Lowry tacked on 23 points. As Beilein noted, even minus Leonard, this is an experienced and intelligent team.

18. By the way, the Cavs have now lost nine straight at home. That's not exactly a great way to pack the joint.

19. Next up: They met in four straight Finals. Now, they are battling for the No. 1 overall draft pick. It's Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors. Saturday night. Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Be there.