Third-quarter woes have plagued the Cleveland Cavaliers the last few games, prompting All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to say the team needs to find a rhythm coming out at halftime.
Irving will have a chance to see if his words set in with his teammates when the Cavaliers visit the Toronto Raptors Sunday at Air Canada Centre.
The Cavs have been outscored in the third quarter in each of the last three games against New York (21-13), Utah (25-19) and Memphis (32-18). In Friday's 103-92 loss to the Grizzlies on their own floor, the Cavs were led by Irving's game-high 24 points. Irving was originally doubtful prior to the game because of an undisclosed illness.
Irving talked with the media following Cleveland's third loss in four tries.
"We just gotta find a rhythm in the third quarter that's got us the lead in the first two quarters," Irving said. "And we have to continue with that coming out at halftime. We gotta continue to execute. We failed to do that on consecutive games."
It was actually three.
C.J. Miles had 13 points and Tristan Thompson recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who played again without Daniel Gibson (illness) and rookie Dion Waiters added three points in just over 20 minutes. Waiters had missed two in a row with the flu.
Cavs coach Byron Scott said Waiters is doing fine and the first-year player looked good in practice. Scott's also been pleased with Thompson's effort this season and believes the 6-9 forward should be in consideration for Most Improved Player. Scott has a lot of faith in Thompson, especially after watching the hard work he put in during the summer.
Scott's remedy for the recent third-quarter relapses is substituting earlier. He won't, however, change the gameplan.
The Cavs will try to push their road win total to double digits (9-22) Sunday and will return home for Tuesday's matchup with Washington.
Toronto is back in the Great White North following a four-game western trek (1-3). The Raptors closed out the swing Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers and suffered a tough 118-116 overtime loss.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant hit tough shots down the stretch in regulation and his dunk with about 10 seconds to go in overtime put Toronto to rest. Raptors forward Rudy Gay said it's tough to guard Bryant when he's in the zone. The five-time champion burned the Raptors for 41 points.
"He just plays smart, he played smart tonight," Gay said of Bryant. "(He) took advantage of our defensive coverages. We haven't done anything he hasn't seen before."
Gay ended up with 17 points on just 7-of-26 shooting. Raptors coach Dwane Casey said he let Gay be aggressive and thought he had some good looks. Gay was asked if he liked his shots and simply stated he doesn't "like to miss."
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 28 points and was more efficient from the floor by going 12-of-18. Kyle Lowry had 15 points and 10 assists, and owns three double-doubles in that past four games.
The Raptors, who dropped to 2-7 in OT this season, have lost six of seven games and will play 18 of their final 19 games against the East. On the injury front, forward Andrea Bargnani is listed as day-to-day with a right elbow issue and exited the Lakers game in the first quarter. Toronto could use their big man down low Sunday and have scored 40-plus points in the paint the past four games.
Toronto has lost two of three meetings with Cleveland this season, but is a decent 6-4 in the last 10 matchups. DeRozan is averaging 21.7 ppg in three games against the Cavaliers in 2012-13.