Johnson leads Raptors over Cavs
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors had every reason to blow Sunday’s game.
Short-handed and tired after travelling through the night following Friday’s crushing loss in Los Angeles, coach Dwane Casey told his team at halftime he wouldn’t accept any excuses.
The Raptors listened, with Amir Johnson leading the way with 17 points and a career-tying 16 rebounds, to rally from a 17-point deficit to top the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-96
“It was like day and night, and I expected it just because of the schedule,” Casey said of the Raptors’ horrible first half. “Guys were groggy coming in, time change, whatever, we had every (excuse) to mail in this game.”
Six Raptors scored in double digits with Alan Anderson leading the way with 18 points — 10 of them in the fourth quarter. Kyle Lowry finished with 15, rookie Terrence Ross added 14, DeMar DeRozan scored 13 and Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 11 for the Raptors (25-39), who won for just the second time in eight outings despite missing Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani.
Lowry said that Casey came into the halftime dressing room with “a little bit of a fiery side to him.”
“Play with pride, he didn’t want us to go out there and say ’Whatever, we lose, we lose,”’ Lowry said of the coach’s speech. “The team responded really well.”
Casey said it was Johnson — who also had three blocked shots — who set the tone for the hard-nosed second-half.
“He’s just an old vet. He’s one of the old guys but young guys at the same time,” Casey said. “He is a warrior, I’ve said that all year. This team is about experience and he’s got experience. He’s seen everything. The one thing you are not going to beat Amir Johnson on is effort and fight and tonight it was contagious.”
Dion Waiters topped the Cavaliers (21-42) with 21 points, while C.J. Miles added 15. Brampton, Ont., native Tristan Thompson finished with 11 points.
Cavs star guard Kyrie Irving had 12 points before leaving the game late in the third quarter with a left shoulder contusion, suffered when he fell hard after a bone-rattling collision along the baseline with Valanciunas. Irving, who drained a three-pointer with less than a second on the clock to lead the Cavs over the Raptors on their last trip to Toronto, managed to make one of two one-handed free throws before heading to the training room.
“I wouldn’t call it a cheap shot or anything like that but I’ve done that play a lot of times and I’ve never come out feeling like this,” Irving said.