Dribbles: Cavs Lose Darius Garland and Game, But Overall Not Bad for Openers

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 108-105 season-opening road loss to the Raptors on Wednesday.Jarrett Allen

1. All the Cavs did was lose — both the game, and point guard Darius Garland to an eye injury at the end of the first half.

2. Other than that, there’s no less reason to believe than there was before the night started. They were right there … against a talented opponent … in an extremely hostile environment. And they were right there until the very end.

3. Yes, losing Garland is a concern. He suffered the injury after being poked in the left eye when Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. went for a steal. Trent got Garland’s eye instead.

4. The fact Garland didn’t return isn’t a great sign. But the fact it wasn’t his actual eye that got scratched sure beats the alternative.

5. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff told reporters it was actually the inside of Garland’s eyelid that got scratched. “So obviously uncomfortable spot,” Bickerstaff said. “His head and everything was clear, but he was cut and bleeding pretty bad from the inside of his eyelid.”

6. How long will Garland be out? It’s way too soon to say. As of this writing, there had been no official update. He finished with four points, three assists and two steals in 13 minutes.

7. As for the rest of the Cavs, things went pretty well, with the exception of a major burst by the Raptors at the end. They went on a 13-2 run late in the fourth to take the lead. They then held on by a single hair on their chiny, chin, chin.

8. Guard Donovan Mitchell showed why the Cavs were so excited to land him in the offseason. It wasn’t just that he finished with a game-high 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting and passed for nine assists. That was obviously impressive, yes. But it’s how Mitchell went about it.

9. In a word, the man is electrifying. He can give you life when all else seems lost. He can break down defenders, but is selfless enough to pass it off when a shot isn’t there. He forced nothing.

10. The Cavs also did a solid job defensively, which really will have to be their calling card if they are to build off last season. That said, they could still get better on the boards. The Raptors only held a 42-38 advantage, but seemed to get the ones that mattered most.

11. During one timeout, Bickerstaff told the Cavs to “rebound” over and over. He repeated it three times. It’s a message you can expect him to continue to stress.

11. Jarrett Allen was aggressive in scoring 13 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and compiling a couple of massive swats. He altered several other shots, for sure. Evan Mobley was a little sporadic, scoring 14 points, but at times struggling to handle the ball and keep his footing.

12. The Cavs also received a strong night from Cedi Osman, who scored 17 off the bench. Osman can be up and down, and he exemplified that definition in this very game. But it’s hard to argue with 6-of-12 shooting and some instant offense off the bench. If Garland is out for any length of time, the Cavs will undoubtedly need more of that.

13. Caris LeVert (10 points) started at small forward and did some nice things. He helped facilitate and showed again that he wants to be a lockdown defender. He’s not there yet — but it’s clear he wants it. Kevin Love (eight points) and Dean Wade (ditto) were also solid in reserve.

14. Meanwhile, Isaac Okoro took one shot and missed it. Again, it was just sort of out there, never really asserting himself. The Cavs are hoping that changes in Year 3.

15. Overall, it’s hard to complain. The Cavs failed to make a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, but other than some hiccups, they played with a lot of fire in an exciting opener. And only one team can win, and the Raptors are no slouches.

16. Forward Pascal Siakam (23 points, 11 boards) was fantastic in leading six Raptors in double-figures scoring. That included all five starters. Trent finished with 19 points and forward OG Anunoby had 18.

17. For the record, Mitchell’s 31 points were the most ever by a Cavs player in his debut. There should be plenty more where that came from. Just wait until all these guys get acclimated with one another.

18. The Cavs are staying over night in Toronto, where they will practice. They will then head to Chicago for another toughie on the road vs. the Bulls on Saturday.

Sam Amico is senior NBA writer for Hoops Wire. Contact him at samamico@gmail.com.

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