Cleveland concluded the year’s shortest month with a 103-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, giving it a 4-1 record since the All-Star break.
The Cavs (20-38), who are 13-13 since the first of the year, finished 7-5 in February, their first winning month since LeBron James left town at the end of the 2009-10 season.
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“I’m pretty happy with the way we finished out February,” coach Byron Scott said. “I’m looking forward to March. … We’ve got some good tests coming in here, starting Friday with the Clippers.”
The Cavs beat the Raptors (23-35) despite not having point guard Kyrie Irving, who missed his second straight game with a hyperextended right knee.
Cleveland won because it got 23 points and six assists from rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters, because it got 15 points, five rebounds and six assists from fill-in starting point guard Shaun Livingston, because its bench outscored Toronto’s 39-8, because it made 30 of 32 free throws and because the Raptors were a woeful 2-for-20 on 3-pointers.
“We’re learning, day by day and game by game, how to finish out games,” Waiters said. “We’re sticking to our principles and having each other’s backs and just playing basketball.”
The Cavs also won despite starting the game 1-for-15 and 2-for-19 from the field, which is why they trailed 21-7 early.
Cleveland closed the first period on an 11-2 run to get within 25-20, then totally caught fire by going 15-for-21 from the field (.714) in a 37-point second quarter.
Up 57-48 at intermission, the Cavs never trailed in the second half, using a 13-0 run to go 86-71 early in the fourth period.
Just when it looked like the game was over, the Raptors came back with a 9-0 spurt of their own to make it 86-80 with 7:13 to play, but the Cavs regrouped and held on down the stretch, when veteran Luke Walton was once again in the middle of all the action.
“It’s been a learning curve,” Walton said of the Cavs’ improvement. “It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of and to see the growth and to see the team getting better.
“We let a lot of games get away from us this year, just without that knowledge and understanding of what it takes to win on a consistent basis in this league. I think we’ve got a taste of it now and understand how hard it is and how much work goes into it. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”
The 32-year-old Walton finished with five points, seven rebounds and seven assists — he tied season highs in the last two categories — but the hustle plays and intelligent decisions he made in 21 minutes were just as important.
“Luke has been fantastic,” Scott said. “He’s one of the big reasons our second unit has been so good.”
Marreese Speights (11 points on 3-for-12 shooting, nine rebounds), Wayne Ellington (13 points) and C.J. Miles (10) also scored in double figures off the bench, while starter Tristan Thompson had another solid night with 14 points and eight boards.
“Our second unit has been fantastic,” Scott said. “Everybody is pretty comfortable. Everybody understands their role and tries to do it to the best of their ability.”
Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan was sensational for the Raptors, putting up 34 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field and 14-for-15 at the line, while small forward Rudy Gay had 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists and the play of the night with a monster two-hand, follow-up slam late in the first half.
No one else had more than 11 points, however, as Toronto fell to 7-5 since acquiring Gay from Memphis.
“The second quarter killed us,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We decided to play defense in the second half, but it was too late.”
- WHO: Cleveland vs. Los Angeles Clippers
- WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
- WHERE: The Q
- TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WTAM 1100-AM, WEOL 930-AM (joined in progress)
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.