James Leads Cavs Over Raptors – Again
Back-to-back blowout wins can be a lot of fun, even moreso when they extend a winning streak to six, but often there is a price to pay.
The likelihood that debt will be collected multiplies when the next team up is the defending NBA champs who just happen to be dragging a three-game losing skid behind them.
The Raptors debt came due Monday night as an ornery, not to mention rested, bunch of Cavaliers showed up to re-establish their hold on that title of Beasts of the East, a hold that has slipped slightly with that three-game skid, but only to those who were willing to overlook the best all-round player in the world who still plays in Cleveland.
LeBron James was there to remind one and all that when he wants to he can almost score at will as he carried his team to a 116-112 win over the game, but overmatched Raptors.
James admitted afterwards getting his team back on track and his season-high point total were linked.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Just came out and played the game. The game was flowing very well for me. My shot was feeling really well and I was able to attack in the third quarter and get downhill.”
It was the third consecutive win by the Cavs over Toronto this season. Toronto will get one more crack at them this campaign, but that won’t come until the final game of the schedule.
There were times in the game where the Raptors looked like they might just pull this one off but every time it started to feel that way James took the game into his own hands and delivered when his team needed him most.
On this night the Cavs needed James to be a scorer which he did finishing with those 34 in a season high 42 minutes.
Oh he had assistance in this one, that goes without saying. It began with the 28 points from Kevin Love and another 19 from Kyrie Irving but it was James who had the difference-making plays all night.
In addition to his 34 points he chipped in with six boards and six assists and was his normal disruptive self on the defensive end as well.
The Raptors seemed to spend a good part of the night focussed on the lack of calls going their way which, even if it were warranted, did them no good in the end.
The biggest surprise was that head coach Dwane Casey somehow avoided getting a technical.
Casey felt it was just a matter of too many mistakes or lapses early on that put his team in a hole.
“When you play a team like that … you can’t have mental mistakes because they’re going to capitalize on them every time you don’t get a 50-50 ball or you don’t get a defensive board, they’re going to cash in.
“If you don’t execute a play, if you don’t set a screen, if you’re not in position on your pick and roll defence, they make you pay.
“The margin of error for us on both ends of the floor is very small and against a good team like that, they’re going to take advantage of it,” Casey said.
In short the Raptors have to play a near perfect game to get the better of the Cavaliers. They weren’t close to that Monday night despite the four-point difference at the final whistle.
“They beat us three times so far this year and they have our number right now, but we have a long way to go and a lot more regular season games to go and continue to play,” Raps point guard Kyle Lowry said. “We’ll take this game as a lesson, a loss, broke our streak, but now we have a chance to start a new one.”
For the vast majority of the game up until the final five minutes of play, the Cavs were shooting above the magical 50% mark. Through the first quarter it was an embarrassing (for Toronto) 65%.
Eventually the Raptors got that number down to a somewhat respectable 47% but it will likely get mentioned quite a bit over the next two days as the Raptors catch a little break in the schedule before hosting Minnesota on Thursday.
The first half was more about the trainers than the players by times.
First James came down after completing a dunk awkwardly and stayed down.
The Cavs called a timeout and James went to the bench looking like he was favouring his groin.
At the conclusion of the timeout he was back on the court but on a few occasions could be seen stretching it out as he came back up the court.
Next casualty was Kyle Lowry but like James, his discomfort proved temporary.
He took an elbow in the mouth and required a quick trip to the locker room where the team dentist froze the area above his top lip. Lowry returned and looked no worse for wear although he admitted after the game he was probably going to be on a soft food diet for a little while.
The most significant injury followed Lowry’s as J.R. Smith came down after a basket and couldn’t make it back down the court falling to the court and slamming his hand in frustration.
He also went to his locker room but did not return because of a left knee injury.