CLEVELAND (AP) – LeBron James scored 35 points and added 17 assists, his last setting up a late a 3-pointer by Kevin Love, and the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers ended Toronto’s nine-game road winning streak with a 132-129 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors on Wednesday night.
The Cavs were missing five rotational players and coach Tyronn Lue, who missed his second straight game because of health reasons.
But they had James, who earlier in the day said, “I’ll be available, so we got a chance.”
James didn’t have a turnover in 40 minutes and he made three free throws in the final 7.8 seconds. He missed one with 3.9 seconds left, giving Toronto a final shot, but DeMar DeRozan’s 3-pointer – contested by James – was wide left. DeRozan and Toronto coaches complained the All-Star was fouled to no avail.
Love, playing his second game after missing 21 games with a broken left hand, finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds and George Hill had 22 on 10-of-11 shooting for the Cavs, who were blown out by 34 points against Toronto in January. But that was before Cleveland shook up its roster with four trades designed to get back to the NBA Finals. The Cavs are third in the East and would need a collapse by second-place Boston to improve on that position with 11 games remaining.
Kyle Lowry scored 24 and DeRozan had 21 for the Raptors, who scored 79 points in the first half and were in control in the third quarter before James brought Cleveland back.
With the Cavs up 125-124, James drove the lane and whipped the ball into the corner to Love, who knocked down his 1,000th career 3-pointer.
The Raptors have lost to the Cavs in each of the past two postseasons, getting swept last year in the conference finals. But this is a different Toronto team, deeper, more experienced and maybe poised to dethrone Cleveland.
Not if James has anything to say about it.
Raptors: Tied a franchise record by scoring 79 points in the first half. They also did it in 1997 against the Nets. … Coach Dwane Casey said the team’s confidence has never been higher and has given Toronto an aura it didn’t have before. “It doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and beat a team,” he said. “But I think we go into the game with a different mindset, more of a hunted mindset than we did last year.” … G C.J. Miles sat out with a flu bug. … The Raptors have made at least 10 3-pointers in team-record 14 straight games.
Cavaliers: F/C Tristan Thompson (ankle) and Rodney Hood (back) were listed as questionable but sat out. … F Larry Nance Jr. (hamstring) is aiming to return this weekend. He has missed four games. … Acting coach Larry Drew spoke with Lue on Tuesday and said the Cavs coach reported feeling better. “He’s on the right trail of recovering and I’m really happy to hear that from him,” Drew said. When he announced he was stepping away, Lue said he has been dealing with chest pains and insomnia for several months. Drew said he doesn’t talk “basketball” with his boss. … Nick Gilbert, owner Dan Gilbert’s son, sat in the front row next to his dad. The younger Gilbert recently spent 38 days in the hospital following brain surgery. He received an ovation from the crowd. … Drew has been keeping close tabs on Nevada’s NCAA Tournament run. His son, Lindsey, plays guard for the Wolf Pack but has been sidelined in March after rupturing his Achilles tendon at a game his dad attended.
Raptors: Host Brooklyn on Friday.
Cavaliers: Host Phoenix on Friday.
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