Irving, James push Cavaliers past Raptors
TORONTO (AP) — Kyrie Irving cemented himself as a go-to late-game shooter in last year’s NBA Finals.
On Friday night, he picked up where he left off.
Irving scored 26 points and hit a go-ahead 3 with 44.3 seconds remaining, lifting the Cleveland Cavaliers over the DeMar DeRozan and Toronto Raptors 94-91 in a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
Irving made a tiebreaking 3 with 53 seconds left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, helping Cleveland win its first title with a historic comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.
Friday’s make helped Cleveland survive a 32-point effort from DeRozan. Irving was 5 for 9 from beyond the arc and dismissed comparisons from reporters to his winning 3 in the Finals.
“No, it’s just Game 2 of a new season,” he said. “I’m glad we went through a close game with a great team like that though. It shows a lot of growth on our end as a team.”
LeBron James had 21 points and Kevin Love chipped in 18 with 10 rebounds to keep the Cavaliers perfect two games into their title defense.
Cleveland led almost from the opening tip until Kyle Lowry put the Raptors in front with 2:37 to play. But Toronto missed its last five shot attempts in the final minute, with Cleveland’s defense holding Toronto to .389 shooting from the field. The Cavaliers were a perfect 17-0 last year when they held opponents under 40 percent shooting.
“I think it was a good test for us,” James said. “It’s fun to have games like that throughout the regular season, it sharpens your sword.”
The Raptors were unable to capitalize on another strong effort from Jonas Valanciunas, who had 10 points and 17 rebounds, and DeRozan, who followed up a 40-point performance in a season-opening win over Detroit.
DeRozan’s combined 72 points bested Vince Carter’s team record of 65 for the most points through the first two games of a season, set in the 2003-04 season.
However, DeRozan was concerned with the second quarter, where Toronto allowed Cleveland to go on a 12-2 run that opened the game up.
“They caught a rhythm, we turned the ball over and they took advantage of it,” he said. “Since then we were always fighting.”
Cavaliers: With seven baskets, James moved past Patrick Ewing (9,702) for 15th career in field goals made. … With a first-quarter 3-pointer, Irving moved past Wesley Person (550) for sole possession of fourth place in 3-pointers made in franchise history. … F Channing Frye did not travel with the team after his mother passed away following a long battle with cancer. Frye is on indefinite leave and will not play in Saturday’s game against Orlando. He had kept his mother’s illness from the team until this week. “For him to internalize it this whole time without saying anything to anyone is tough,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, whose own mother and grandmother are battling cancer.
Raptors: C Lucas Nogueira (ankle) sat out his second consecutive game with a sprain. … Toronto won the regular season series against the Cavaliers last year, taking three out of four games.
Fresh off leading local Major League Soccer team Toronto FC to its first-ever playoff win Sunday over Philadelphia Union, U.S. national team striker Jozy Altidore was in attendance Friday. TFC continues its postseason run against New York City FC on Sunday.
Cavaliers: Host Orlando on Saturday hoping to extend their 14-game winning streak against the Magic. Orlando last beat Cleveland on Nov. 23, 2012.
Raptors: Host Denver on Monday to conclude season-opening three-game home stand with their first game against a Western Conference opponent. Toronto was 17-13 against the West last season.