Raptors fall short in loss to Cavaliers
CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving isn’t the only Cavaliers guard with killer instinct on the court.
When the game’s on the line, Dion Waiters wants the spotlight — and the ball.
“I live for that,” the rookie said.
Waiters scored 23 points, his last two coming on a crucial jumper with 1:43 left, Shaun Livingston added 15 and Cleveland overcame a horrendous start to win its second straight game without an injured Irving, 103-92 over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
The Cavs made only one of their first 15 shots, but recovered and finished February at 7-5, their first winning month since March 2010, when LeBron James was still around. Tristan Thompson scored 14, Wayne Ellington added 13 and Luke Walton had seven rebounds and seven assists for Cleveland, which closed with a 10-2 run.
Usually, Irving’s the one the Cavs turn to in the closing minutes, when every dribble and every possession are important. But with their All-Star guard slowed or sidelined with a hyperextended right knee, the Cavs have turned to Waiters, who scored 25 in Tuesday’s win at Chicago and has 71 points in his past three games.
“As a kid, you see a lot of guys like Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, who live for those moments,” Waiters said. “You tell yourself you’re going to be in that position one day. I’m just blessed to be in that position.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 34 and Rudy Gay had 24 for the Raptors. Toronto climbed back from an 11-point deficit and pulled within three at 93-90 when Waiters calmly dropped a clutch 15-foot jumper — the kind of shot Irving has made a habit of taking and making in his two seasons as a pro.
Thompson, another of the young-and-improving Cavs, added eight rebounds and made all six free throws.
After trailing by 11, the Raptors got within 73-71 on DeRozan’s jumper.
But Thompson scored six straight points inside and the Cavs reeled off seven consecutive to end the third. Cleveland made its first 20 free throws before Waiters split a pair with 1.7 seconds left, giving Cleveland an 80-71 lead entering the fourth. A 6-0 burst pushed Cleveland’s lead to 86-71, but the Raptors, fighting to stay in the playoff race, weren’t finished.
Gay’s dunk made it 93-90, but Waiters showed no fear in stepping up and dropping his big jumper. On Cleveland’s next possession, Livingston fired a no-look pass to Alonzo Gee for a dunk, and after DeRozan scored, the Cavs put the game away by making their free throws down the stretch.
The win was another sign of growth in the Cavs, who went 3-12 in November and 3-13 in December.
The Raptors lost for the first time in four road games since acquiring Gay in a trade from Memphis.