In terms of tactics, Wednesday’s Cavs-Raptors game may not serve as a playoff preview due to the five players the Cavs were missing. But it terms of drama, the Cavs’ 132-129 win felt like one.
James finished the night with 35 points, 17 assists, zero turnovers and six rebounds. Love added 22 points and 12 rebounds. Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 24 points with DeMar DeRozan adding 21 points.
The Cavs lost control of the game for a stretch in the second quarter. After leading 42-38 after one, Cleveland had the game completely flipped on its head. After Pascal Siakam scored on Kevin Love with 7:53 left in the quarter to give the Raptors a two-point lead, the Cavs never trailed the rest of the quarter.
A Jose Calderon three-pointer with 6:26 to play had the Cavs down by just one, but they never got that close again. When the Raptors called a timeout with 3:09 left in the quarter, they led by seven. By the end of the quarter, Toronto led by 15 points.
Toronto was largely paced by its bench, which outscored Cleveland’s reserves 27-7 in the second quarter alone, and 35-14 in the first half overall. The Raptors’ 79 points also set a new franchise record and and are the most points the Cavs have given up in seven-plus years.
They, however, recovered in the third quarter. A George Hill make just over two minutes into the quarter got Cleveland within 10 points, and it was able to hang around for most of the quarter. By 3:17, they were down just seven and finished the quarter down by just one after Jose Calderon and J.R. Smith hit back-to-back three-pointers to end the quarter.
James sat the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, with the Cavs down five after two Delon Wright free throws. By the 5:27 mark, after a Hill three-pointer, the Cavs took a one-point lead and they slowly built up their lead from there. At the 2:27 mark, after James made two of three free throws after being fouled by Serge Ibaka, the Cavs led by five. Fourteen of James’ 35 points came in the fourth quarter.
With 53.8 seconds to go, after a Siakam dunk, the Raptors were back down by just one. On the Cavs’ next possession, James drove an open lane and found an open Love in the right corner. Love nailed a three-pointer, putting the Cavs up four and prompting a Raptors timeout.
Two DeRozan free throws saw the Raptors be down by just two. They got as close as one point after DeRozan scored 10.4 seconds left, and had a shot to tie it at the buzzer, but came up short.
The Cavs trailed by as many 15 points in their win, and only led by as many as five points. Currently, the Cavs trail the Raptors by 10.5 games in the Eastern Conference and would have to win out with the Raptors losing the rest of their games for the Cavs to take the No. 1 seed. With the Cavs currently slotted in as the No. 3, the two teams would not meet until the Eastern Conference Finals if currently seeding holds firm.
Cleveland and Toronto do play one more time — April 3 in Cleveland — eight days before the Cavs’ last game of the regular season.
Up next: The Cavs host the Suns on Friday. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m