TORONTO: Spencer Hawes is a fast learner, but the Cavaliers are no longer the league’s hottest team.
The Raptors scored 37 points in the third quarter and the Cavs’ short-handed perimeter players struggled through lousy shooting nights in a 98-91 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday, ending the Cavs’ six-game winning streak, which was the longest in the league.
Kyrie Irving had 17 points and nine assists and Hawes had seven points and 10 rebounds in his Cavs debut, but Irving, Jarrett Jack, Luol Deng and Matthew Dellavedova combined to shoot 14-for-47 on a night the Cavs were without Anderson Varejao (back), Dion Waiters (knee) and C.J. Miles (ankle). All of the personnel losses forced Jack and Irving to play more than 40 minutes.
“It’s tough, but it’s part of NBA life,” Mike Brown said of all the injuries. “You still have to try to find a way. But I give our guys credit, they did fight.”
The Cavs led 44-39 at the half, but the Raptors shot 48 percent and Jonas Valanciunas hurt the Cavs inside in the decisive third quarter. Valanciunas scored 10 of his 18 points and grabbed four of his eight rebounds in the third, allowing the Raptors to carry an 11-point lead into the fourth. They extended it to 15 with 5:28 left and were never really threatened. The Cavs pulled within 93-87 in the final minute, but a driving lay-up from John Salmons squelched any chance at a last-minute rally.
“They just got into a rhythm and we didn’t get any stops,” Irving said of the third quarter. “We have to get better at stopping other teams’ runs, just taking a stance on both ends.”
Deng had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Tristan Thompson had 13 points and nine rebounds and Toronto native Anthony Bennett had nine points in his first game back in Canada since going No. 1 overall in last year’s draft.
Terrence Ross had 20 points for the first-place Raptors.
Hawes made his Cavs debut midway through the first quarter after Tyler Zeller picked up a couple of early fouls. He promptly made his first shot — a 3-pointer hoisted seconds after entering — but finished the night shooting 3-for-10.
“We were talking him through the stuff we were going through on the floor. He’s pretty smart. He was picking it up as we went along,” Brown said. “The defense definitely has to respect him no matter where he is on the floor.”
Brown joked Friday morning that the Cavs’ offense is pretty simple and Hawes probably learned everything he needed to know from the Philadelphia 76ers’ scouting reports. But Hawes said he actually struggled more picking up the offense than he did on defense.
“Defensively, they kept it pretty simple,” Hawes said. “I think offensively, trying to get the intricacies of not just the offense but guys tendencies — where guys like the ball, guys know where I like the ball, all that chemistry stuff. That comes with time and repetition. … Hopefully by Sunday I’ll have a pretty good idea of everything that’s going on.”
The Cavs host the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.