SPORTS

LeBron leads Cavs to 105-91 win over DeRozan-less Toronto Raptors

12/05/2014 10:13 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Dwane Casey has cautioned all season that there would be a night when the Toronto Raptors' sizzling offence wouldn't be enough to overcome its lagging defence.

That night was Friday.

LeBron James scored 24 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers exacted some revenge over a Raptors team missing DeMar DeRozan, beating Toronto 105-91.

"Tonight we couldn't buy a bucket. We couldn't hit the side of a barn with a bass fiddle," Casey said. "We're better than that.

"Our bad offensive shooting night. . . made our defence even worse. It was a snowball effect. They whupped us, they spanked us."

Amir Johnson had a season-high 27 points, and Kyle Lowry added 22 points and nine assists. But that wasn't enough to carry an East-leading Raptors team (15-5) that had only three players score in double figures — James Johnson finished with 11.

Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont., finished with season highs for both points (21) and rebounds (14) for the Cavs (11-7), who stretched their winning streak to six games.

The Raptors had topped the Cavaliers 110-93 on Nov. 22, battling back from a 19-point first-quarter deficit. The result worked as a wakeup call for Cleveland, who promptly went on a five-game winning streak.

They made it six Friday night, leading from the opening whistle in front of a star-studded Air Canada Centre capacity crowd of 19,800 that included NBA legends Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Dikembe Mutombo, who gave his signature finger wag to the ACC crowd when shown on the Jumbotron.

"Just missing shots," Lowry said on the loss. "I don't think it was anything we did differently, G (Greivis Vasquez) had a rough night (shooting 2-for-11), I had a rough night (7-for-18). We'll come in to the gym on Sunday and get our shots up, and I'm sure the shots we missed tonight will fall Monday (when the Raptors host Denver)."

Johnson, Barkley, Mutombo, and Tracy McGrady were in Toronto as part of the Raptors' celebration of Nelson Mandela, who died a year ago to the day.

"It was a beautiful day," Casey said. "To see (Johnson, Barkley and Mutombo), all the guys that were a big part of the NBA's history, and just the message that Nelson Mandela sent throughout the world was huge.

"It's bigger than basketball, and that was the theme of the night for our players. I lived it, I went through it, I understand it. And it meant a lot to our players and it was a magnificent night for our organization."

On the court, however, the Raptors — now 2-2 without DeRozan, who's out with a torn groin tendon — were flat-footed all night. They trailed by as many as 14 points and went into the fourth down 76-64.

The Raptors managed to pull within six points three times in the final 12 minutes, and a dunk by Amir Johnson pulled them to within 97-91 with 1:53 to play. But that was as close as they would get.

"I know this team tonight wasn't us," Casey said. "First game back from a west-coast trip, the worst team you want to see is a team as talented as Cleveland."

The Raptors missed DeRozan's defence as well as his scoring.

"He takes the challenge of guarding the best player out there on the other side coming down to the fourth quarter," Lowry said.

The Cavs shot 49 per cent on the night to Toronto's 41, and outrebounded them 48-40.

Thompson was a huge spark off the bench for Cleveland.

"Every night coach challenges us, the bench, to come and bring life," Thompson said. "We don't want our stars to play so heavy minutes and drain themselves out so we have to be able to come in and keep the energy high, and that's what we did tonight."

The two teams meet again Tuesday in Cleveland.

The one positive on the night for the Raptors was the presence of Johnson, Barkley and Mutombo, who all received standing ovations when they were introduced.

"It was great, man," said Amir Johnson. "It was kind of like the Staples Center, you see guys left and right. We need some more of that."

"Amazing. Amazing," Lowry added. "I wish we could've won for them but that's a humbling experience. I grew up watching all those guys. Just the fact that I got to be around those guys and see them and them watching our game, here for a good cause is amazing."

McGrady was honoured with a video tribute during a first-quarter timeout as part of the Raptors' 20th anniversary celebrations, and received a standing ovation from the ACC crowd.

McGrady said pre-game that he was looking forward to the video.

"Cool to see what I used to do a little bit, I mean, it's been what . . .16 . . . 16 years, damn," McGrady said.

McGrady was the Raptors' ninth pick in the 1997 draft and played three seasons in Toronto.

"When I started playing at SkyDome, you do something exciting, it's like crickets in the building," McGrady said. "You just didn't get that great excitement, that warm reception that you need to get when you're playing in front of your home crowd. We built that my last year here when we made the playoffs, first team that made the playoffs in Raptors history.

"It's great to see the way it is today. I feel good knowing that what I went through and what I witnessed to what it is now. I'm proud to say that I was a Raptor."

The Cavaliers raced out to an early lead Friday, taking an eight-point advantage on a three-pointer by former Raptor Shawn Marion midway through the first quarter. The visitors took a 30-21 advantage into the second.

Back-to-back threes from James Jones gave the Cavaliers a 14-point lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. The Raptors chipped away at the deficit, and went into the dressing room trailing 51-44.

The Raptors carried their momentum into the third, and Lowry's three at midway through the quarter gave the Raptors a 58-57 lead. But the Cavs ended the quarter with a 19-6 run to go into the fourth quarter up by 12.

MORE:cpSports