EditorsNote: rewords second graf; adds new 12th graf
LeBron James hit two free throws with 7.8 seconds left and finished with 35 points, 17 assists and seven rebounds to lead the host Cleveland Cavaliers to a 132-129 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Kevin Love scored 23 points, including a 3-pointer with 27.5 seconds left to put Cleveland up 128-124, and added 12 rebounds. George Hill had 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting for the Cavaliers, who won their third straight and posted a fourth victory in five games.
“I told you guys how much I missed him, how much this team missed him,” James said on ESPN of Love and his big 3-pointer off a James assist. “Somebody I can always rely on because of all of the things that we’ve been through.
“So when I drove the lane, I seen Serge (Ibaka) ... knowing Serge’s tendency is to come block shots, I knew that I was going to have (Love) in that short corner, and he knocked it down.”
Kyle Lowry had 24 points and DeMar DeRozan had 21 to lead the Raptors, who came into the game winners of 19 of 21 but have now lost two of three.
After a high-scoring first quarter in which the teams combined for 80 points, with Cleveland claiming a 42-38 lead, the Raptors dominated the second frame, 41-22, to take a 79-64 halftime lead. Just when Toronto thought it had the game in the bag, though, the Cavaliers owned the third quarter, 34-20, and went into the fourth trailing 99-98.
The teams traded leads in the fourth quarter but Cleveland seized control late and DeRozan missed a long 3-point attempt as time expired to give the Cavaliers an important win.
Cleveland relied heavily on its offense in the win, shooting 60 percent from the field, 63 percent from 3-point range and 82 percent on free throws to outmatch a Raptors squad that shot 54 percent.
James was asked if he knows what the roster is capable of.
“No, I don’t,” he said. “But we’re working our tail off to keep this ship above sea level, above the water.
“If we continue to play like we did tonight, even with all the injuries, even with all the adversity, even with the lost ones of some of our brothers’ family, we’ll be OK.”
Cleveland was without Kyle Korver, whose brother Kirk died at age 27 on Tuesday after an illness.
The Cavaliers’ starting five shot a combined 38 of 61 from the field, with Jeff Green adding 15 points and Jose Calderon chipping in 14. And James didn’t commit a turnover to go with his 17 assists.
Toronto got a big game from its bench, which combined to score 48 points. Jakob Poeltl had 17 points and eight rebounds, Fred VanVleet added 16 points, and Delon Wright scored 12 points.
After their brief two-game road trip, the Raptors return home for three games, starting Friday with a matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
Cleveland concludes its three-game homestand on Friday against the NBA’s worst team, the Phoenix Suns, before heading on the road for three.
—Field Level Media