About 20 years ago, British R&B band Soul II Soul penned some lyrics that are apropos in the wake of the Raptors' 101-81 win over the Cavs Friday in Toronto:
"Back to life. Back to reality."
After cloud nine was ascended during Wednesday's improbable season-opening win over the mighty Boston Celtics, the Cavs (1-1) were forced to look in the mirror during their first road game Friday and see their post-LeBron selves for what they truly are.
They're a team with gaping talent holes. They're a team with very little size in the frontcourt. They're a team that is incapable of overcoming serial self-inflicted setbacks. And they're definitely a team that is going to have a hard time winning any game with two starters on the shelf.
All of those factors came into play Friday.
The Cavs started the game with Mo Williams once again inactive, as Byron Scott decided to play it conservative for the second straight game, as Mo continues to work himself into game shape following a preseason short-circuited by a leg injury and a death in the family.
Anderson Varejao was back in Cleveland to be with his father, who was undergoing heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.
With two vets out of action, Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins filled in, and the team felt the pinch. Sessions had a dismal game, finishing 1-for-10 from the floor and 2-of-3 from the free throw line for a paltry four points. He also committed five turnovers, one of four Cavs to commit multiple turnovers.
J.J. Hickson committed four turnovers and followed up his budding-star 21-point performance against Boston with a 3-of-8 shooting, six point performance Friday. Proving, above all else, that Hickson is incapable of turning 23 any sooner than Sept. 4 of next year.
If there was any good to be gleaned from Friday's game, it was the performance of Antawn Jamison. After a forgettable preseason and a opening night in which he didn't even convert a field goal until the fourth quarter, Jamison finally showed some signs of life with a 13-point performance that included a trio of three-pointers. But like the rest of his team, he didn't provide a lot of muscle in the paint, managing just two rebounds.
As it was, the Cavs were manhandled on the boards by the Raptors as a whole (46-33) and Reggie Evans in particular. The journeyman forward hauled down 14 boards against the marshmallow-soft Cavs interior.
In a battle of teams that both lost their franchise players to Miami over the summer, it was the Raptors who left the game with far more reason to feel optimistic about their future. The post-Bosh Raptors displayed an impressive collection of offensive talent. Andrea Bargnani's inside-outside offensive game continues to develop. He finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. What's more, the 7-foot Italian import scored interior points, venturing outside the three-point arc for just two shots, making one.
Former Nugget Linas Kleiza contributed 19 points and a trio of three-balls, and DeMar DeRozan added 14. Off the bench, Leandro Barbosa and Sonny Weems gave Toronto 13 apiece.
The disparity between the first two games of the season indicates a likely pattern for the Cavs moving forward. They'll look like gritty overachievers ahead of the rebuilding curve one night, and a team in desperate need of remedial basketball education the next night. It's all part of the game as the players struggle to define their roles and learn Scott's playbook and coaching style.
The Cavs won't have a lot of time to dwell on this game. They're right back in action Saturday night at The Q, a 7:30 tipoff against the Sacramento Kings.