The Cavaliers three-game losing streak came to an end in Toronto tonight as the Cavaliers held on to beat their Eastern Conference rivals, 116-112. Despite the loss of JR Smith and a poor defensive showing in the first half, the Cavaliers capitalized on another peak Kevin Love performance (20 first half points) and opened up a double digit lead in the third quarter.
JR Smith exited the game in the first quarter after landing awkwardly on his left knee following a layup and did not return to the game. In his vacancy, DeAndre Liggins stepped in during the second half and played some impressive defense, even pulling down a couple key offensive rebounds that got the Cavs out to a 13-point lead in the third.
LeBron James had a game high 34 points (with 18 in the second half,) eight rebounds and seven assists. Kevin Love finished with 28 points while shooting 6-11 on three-pointers and grabbing 14 rebounds. Kyrie Irving rounded out the Cavs big three, despite struggling at times against Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph (six turnovers), with 24 points and seven assists.
As for the Raptors, it was another dominant performance from their backcourt - a combined 55 points - but a failure to contain James and Love at the wing inevitably did them in. A three-pointer from DeMar DeRozan almost cut the game within 2 points in the final minute, but officials ruled he had stepped out of bounds upon review.
The key takeaway from this game: the Cavs have got to stop letting teams back into games. Giving up 61 points in the first half is one thing but failing to maintain a double digit lead is a sign that the team is not quite comfortable with its rotations and is taking their foot off the gas a bit too quickly. Certainly someone like a third ball handler or a scoring option off the bench would help. Regardless, a win against the Raptors is important for Eastern Conference standings and gives the Cavs a one-game lead for first place.
The Cavaliers will wrap up this three game road trip on Wednesday in New York where they will face everyone’s second favorite super team in the East, the Knicks.