Cavs try to move into tie for No. 2 seed
The Cleveland Cavaliers have their All-Star point guard back in time for a hellacious stretch, while the Toronto Raptors are hoping for the return of theirs as they resume their tough run.
Kyrie Irving and the visiting Cavaliers begin a stretch against five straight winning teams Wednesday night when they try to move into a tie for the No. 2 seed with the Raptors, who could get Kyle Lowry back.
Irving missed Cleveland’s 93-86 loss at Indiana on Friday and Sunday’s 105-103 overtime loss at Houston – the team’s first consecutive defeats since a six-game skid in early January – because of a left shoulder strain as the Cavaliers (38-24) fell to 1-4 without him.
The Cavs bounced back as Irving returned with 18 points in Tuesday’s 110-79 home rout of Boston. He and LeBron James were only needed for 26 minutes while Kevin Love played 25 in a game the Cavaliers led by as many as 44.
James has scored 37 and 27 in two games since sitting Friday due to a sore back, and he sank all three of his free-throw attempts Tuesday after going 21 for 40 over his previous five.
The Cavs now have an opportunity to move into a virtual tie with Toronto (38-22) for second in the Eastern Conference as they start a stretch with six of seven on the road. They’ll also face Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio after taking on the Raptors.
"Top eight," James said when asked in which spot he’d like to see Cleveland finish. "Put me in the playoffs, I’m all right. Once I get in the playoffs, I’m confident against anybody."
James scored 35 points and made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 48 seconds remaining as Cleveland rallied back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit for a 105-101 home win Dec. 9 in the most recent meeting with the Raptors.
Toronto is playing its second home game in a stretch with nine of 11 on the road that finally concludes March 10.
Following a season-high five-game skid in which they averaged 90.4 points and shot 25.4 percent from 3-point range, the Raptors got back on track by hitting 11 of 27 from long range in Monday’s 114-103 win at Philadelphia.
DeMar DeRozan picked up the scoring with a season-high 35. He had scored 13.8 per game – well below his team-high 18.3 average – on 29.6 percent shooting during the losing streak.
"It didn’t matter who we got this win against, we understood we just needed to get this win," DeRozan said after the Raptors improved to 31-8 when scoring at least 100. "We had to get that confidence back."
Lou Williams helped make up for Lowry’s absence with 21 points off the bench. Coach Dwane Casey is considering resting Lowry for a third straight game to heal some nagging injuries after the All-Star scored 11.9 per game on 34.2 percent shooting in his previous 10.
Lowry has averaged 20.3 points and 10.3 assists but shot 36.0 percent in the three meetings with the Cavs.
Williams scored a career-high 36 in a 110-93 win at Cleveland on Nov. 22, but had five points in a 105-91 home loss Dec. 5 and six on Dec. 9.
Toronto has gone to the free-throw line 30 times over the past two matchups after shooting 42 in the first. DeRozan didn’t play in the last two because of a groin injury.