Toronto Raptors 133, Cleveland Cavaliers 99

LeBron takes over as top vote-getter Curry leapfrogs KD for West lead in NBA All Star voting

LeBron James has leapfrogged Giannis Antetokounmpo as the top vote-getter in the second returns of the NBA All Star voting. AP

There are all kinds of numbers to crunch, but majority keep spitting out the same conclusion: At the midway point of the regular season the only team that can, without argument, claim to be superior to the Raptors is the one that is coming to town Saturday night. The optics were not great. He missed a wide-open 3 with 1:42 to go. Against the Toronto Raptors on Thursday, the reigning Eastern Conference champs got handed their worst defeat of the season and fell by 34 points. The Cavs finished the season 15-8 and later won the Finals. They won't need reminding, though, that Cleveland has dumped them from the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

My ask of the media here is to look past the simple narratives, the easy headlines that nearly write themselves about another bad, lazy Cleveland loss where they didn't put forth the effort, or about the regular season Raptors who disappear in April. "We got stops, we were able to get out in transition and then the threes started falling somewhere in the second quarter".

Recent results have been especially concerning.

The Cleveland Cavaliers could use a win here after losing six of their last eight games.

James, now 33, competes in April, May, and June.

This year's roster exacerbates those problems. 18 years I've been in this light right here. A team enlisting a bunch of 30-year-old veterans with a sure path to at least May simply is not going to go full throttle in January.

That doesn't mean there aren't reasons to worry.

Last week, they played against the lowly Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz. "Until we play better defensively and offensively, until we share the basketball". He tried to inject a shot of emotion and energy into the listless Cavaliers. James knows the process of bringing aboard an All-Star player like Isaiah Thomas following seven months of rehabbing, and he understands the chemistry needed to rejuvenate the team following the departure of Kyrie Irving. Williams dropped a career-high 50 on the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

Since then, though, the Cavs haven't been almost as impressive and, currently, Cleveland is in the midst of a losing spell with six defeats in eight games. After beginning the season 5-7, they rattled off an 18-1 stretch before falling into the current slump. The difference now is whether other teams in the East have caught up to them? That's true and Cleveland likely won't consider Toronto a real threat until they provide a post-season scare. That's the hardest part too, to change something that works and turn it into something new, to ask players who've found accolades and success being one thing to become something else and give up part of what's made them successful for the group.

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