CLEVELAND — With his team in trouble, DeMar DeRozan flashed his All-Star form at the finish.
DeRozan scored 16 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, and the Toronto Raptors won for the sixth time in seven games with a 99-93 victory over the injury-riddled Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.
“DeMar was huge down the stretch,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “He made shots, he made plays, he made some free throws.”
DeRozan also made a key defensive play with the Raptors leading 94-91 and 32 seconds remaining. He stole a pass from Spencer Hawes by knocking Tyler Zeller to the floor and then made two free throws for a five-point lead.
“I don’t have too many of those left in me,” DeRozan said of the hard hit. “I kind of anticipated that.”
Terrence Ross hit a 3-pointer with 3:02 remaining to put Toronto ahead 90-89. DeRozan dunked on a baseline drive and added two free throws to give the Raptors a 94-91 lead with 1:23 remaining.
Kyrie Irving, who played 45 minutes and the entire second half because of Cleveland’s depleted roster, scored 25 points and had nine assists. Cleveland has lost three straight after winning six in a row and fell 5 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Irving had no problem with coach Mike Brown’s decision to leave him in the game.
“I told Coach I’m willing to do whatever it takes for us to get a win,” Irving said after playing a career high in a 48-minute game.
The Cavaliers again played without centre Anderson Varejao (sore back) and guards Dion Waiters (hyperextended left knee) and C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle).
Ross scored 19 points while Greivis Vasquez added 15 for the Raptors, who beat the Cavaliers 98-91 in Toronto on Friday and have won three in a row. Toronto leads the Atlantic Division and is in third place in the Eastern Conference.
Hawes, making his first start for Cleveland since being acquired from Philadelphia last week, scored 15 points.
Cleveland took its last lead at 89-87 with 3:11 to play on Zeller’s two free throws, but Ross’ 3-pointer put Toronto ahead for good.
Irving, the MVP of the All-Star game, was called for charging into Kyle Lowry in the final minute. The call was upheld after officials viewed a replay. Irving was bumped on his way to the basket on Cleveland’s next possession but no call was made.
“It’s part of the game,” he said of the officiating. “The refs are going to make their call. That’s their job. You move on to the next play and the next game. I’m going to pick myself up and get ready for Oklahoma City (Wednesday night).”
The Raptors went on a 15-0 run over a span of 6:46 in the first and second quarters to take a 14-point lead, but Casey was displeased his team let the Cavaliers get back in the game.
“We’re nowhere near where we can walk in a game and expect to win,” he said. “All of our games are grind it out. We’re going to see everyone’s best haymaker. They threw their best haymaker at us, they played desperate. Give credit to them.”
The early offensive struggles were a major reason Brown didn’t take Irving out in the second half.
“When I pulled him in the first half we had a little trouble scoring,” Brown said. “I thought he was in a little bit of a groove. He’s our best player so I wanted to leave him on the floor and see if he could help the second unit generate some easy baskets.”
Toronto had a five-point possession in the second quarter that began when Vasquez hit a 3-pointer.
Hawes was called for a foul when he and Tyler Hansbrough went to the floor. Hawes was then given a technical for arguing the call, and DeRozan and Hansbrough each made a free throw.
Hansbrough completed another three-point play after DeRozan’s basket. Jarrett Jack was called for a foul after Hansbrough was knocked to the floor. Jack was also hit with a technical.
Toronto built a 36-22 lead but Cleveland cut the margin to 47-41 at halftime and scored the first seven points of the third quarter to take a one-point lead.