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Wrap-Up – Playing in the second-half of a back-to-back against the top team in the East after arriving in Toronto in the wee hours of Friday morning, it would have been forgivable for the Cavaliers to have their win streak snapped at five. But the red-hot Wine and Gold had revenge in mind, and they held off every Raptors’ second-half salvo to take the 105-91 win at the Air Canada Centre.
LeBron James orchestrated a beautiful floor game and kept the Cavaliers in charge for all four quarters. The four-time MVP led his squad in scoring with 24 points and led both teams with 13 helpers and three steals, adding seven boards and a blocked shot. He and Tristan Thompson punished Toronto with the high screen-and-roll throughout the fourth quarter as Thompson manhandled his hometown team in the post – notching 15 of his 21 points and seven of his 14 boards in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Love tallied a double-double of his own, finishing with 15 points and 13 boards. And Kyrie Irving, fresh off a heroic performance the previous evening in New York, scored nine of his 15 points in the critical third quarter of Friday’s win. James Jones, who hadn’t seen action in four straight games, came off Cleveland’s bench and – with Mike Miller on the shelf after suffering concussion-like symptoms the night before – canned a pair of consecutive treys that helped pad the Cavs’ first-half lead.
The Raptors had topped the Cavaliers almost two weeks earlier at The Q – turning an 18-point deficit into a 17-point win. And that loss was at the forefront of Cleveland’s mind when they came to town. Unlike that loss, the Cavs were careful with the ball – committing just 13 turnovers and holding the high-octane Raptors to 41 percent shooting.
Turning Point – After leading for most of the night, Kyle Lowry’s three-pointer with 7:14 to play in the third gave Toronto a one-point edge and it looked like momentum might push them past the Wine and Gold. But after Kevin love drained a pair of free throws, Kyrie and LeBron canned back-to-back treys to improve Cleveland’s lead to 11. Toronto would get no closer than six the rest of the way.
Scene and Heard – On Friday night, the Raptors honored the life and works of “The Giant of Africa” – Nelson Mandela – at the Air Canada Centre. There were some heavyweights on-hand to help with the celebration – including Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Dikembe Mutombo and UN Goodwill Ambassador and 1999 Miss Universe winner Mpule Kwelagobe.
Cavs coach David Blatt was asked about Mandela’s impact and what Friday’s celebration means.
”Certainly, Nelson Mandela was a champion, if not the champion for peace and for bringing people together and fostering understanding – an example for overcoming adversity and adhering to principles that are valuable to all of us. And Toronto and the Raptors honoring him in the way that they are, together with the NBA, is what we’re all about. And (the Cavs) are proud to be a part of it.”
By the Numbers – 33 … bench points for the Cavaliers, led by Tristan’s 21. Cleveland’s reserves had been averaging just over 20 points per contest in the previous five games, but did some serious damage without two of their top second unit guys – Mike Miller and Matthew Dellavedova – on Friday night.
Quotable – Coach David Blatt, on his squad’s performance on Friday night …
”Sometimes when you deal with a little bit of adversity like the tough game that we had last night, very, very tough travel and immediate turnaround less than 24 hours for a back-to-back against the number one team in the East, it raises your level of motivation and awareness and I thought that’s just what happened.”
Up Next – The Cavaliers wrap up the three-game roadie on Monday night with a battle in Brooklyn against the defensive-minded Nets. The Wine and Gold return home (briefly) for their third meeting of the young season against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night at The Q. But they get right back on the road afterward – traveling to OKC to take on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder on Thursday night. On Friday, the Cavs wrap up their season series with the Pelicans in New Orleans. After their trip to the Big Easy, the Cavs are home until traveling to Miami on Christmas Day.