It wasn't always pretty. The Raptors made it interesting. A 19 point Cavaliers lead was completely wiped out, and the Raptors took a fourth quarter lead. LeBron James shook off two missed free throws, dominated the last six minutes of the game, and the Cavs got some late stops to pull away.
Your Cavaliers 120, the Toronto Raptors 112.
This game was intense. The Raptors faithful was into the game, and they have loud fans. On one third quarter drive LeBron James was hit with a hard foul by Jonas Valanciunas. The fans loved it, and gave Jonas a standing ovation. When the flagrant one foul was called, the fans were shocked. Waiting for an update on why they cheered so hard when James hit the floor.
The Cavaliers built a big lead on the backs of James Jones, who hit a bunch of threes early in the second quarter, and Kevin Love, who hit a bunch of threes late in the second quarter. Kyrie Irving sprinkled in conversions on ridiculous drives in between. For Kevin Love it was one of his better games as a Cav overall. It's the 13th time this season he's had atleast 20 points and 10 rebounds, and he finished with 22 points on 10 shots.
Irving was important to the offense all night, even when he deferred to LeBron James late. Tonight he stepped up his distributing, handing out eight assists to just two turnovers. Oh, and he scored 26 points on 17 shots. J.R. Smith was effective, though in more quiet fashion. He hit a few big threes in the second half, and played great defense throughout. If he stays dialed in, he's a really valuable player.
But you knew the Raptors run was coming, and come it did. Lou Williams had one of his trademark games where he performs like one of the best reserve guards in the game. He was fouled on two three point attempts and made all six free throws, he went over the top of screens while running the Pick and Roll and nailed three pointers, he had it all going. He had 26 points on 8 shots, which is insane efficiency. He's one of my favorite players, but it's not something he does every night. On a night when the Raptors played without Kyle Lowry, he really stepped up.
LeBron James, though, wasn't interested in the Cavs giving this one up. He attacked relentlessly and hit some dagger threes. With the Cavs spacing, the lane really opened up for him. 29 points on 16 shots, 14 assists and just three turnovers, six rebounds. He was incredible, and the Cavs needed every bit of it.
Late in the game the Raptors went small, with just Jonas Valanciunas surrounded by wings. David Blatt chose to go with Tristan Thompson over Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov. How could he have justified this? Well, the Cavs needed defense, and had enough offense on the floor with James and Irving. So Love was out. James Jones was hitting shots and could guard wings a little bit better than Love would have been able to.
Timofey Mozgov is a better matchup for Valanciunas, but it was mostly guards like Williams and DeRozan that were scoring on the Cavs. Don't get me wrong, Valanciunas was fantastic. Perhaps Blatt bet on ball dominant guards trying to take over the game.
All we know is that late in the game, Tristan Thompson found himself switching a Pick and Roll and guarding DeRozan. This has been something Blatt has been going to late in games for the last month or so, which is my way of saying I just noticed it recently and don't know when it started. After some ineffectual dancing, DeRozan forced a bad midrange jumper that missed badly. It's a genuine strength of Thompson's. I might have gone with Mozgov and avoided switching on pick and rolls completely. But the Cavaliers won, and that stop played a huge role.
This was a great win for the Cavs on the road in a hostile environment on a back to back. They got the win. Enjoy it.