The surprising Toronto Raptors hope the NBA All-Star break did not halt their momentum as they look for their ninth consecutive home victory Wednesday night in a matchup with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One of the hottest teams in the league heading into the break, Toronto (29-24) is on its longest home winning streak since setting a franchise record with 10 consecutive victories spanning the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons. The Raptors’ longest single-season win streak at home is a nine-game run from March 7-April 4, 1999.
Toronto beat New Jersey 120-109 at Air Canada Centre last Wednesday to extend its lead in the Atlantic Division to 4 1/2 games over the Nets. The Raptors are 27-16 since opening the season with eight losses in their first 10 games.
“A lot of people counted us out. A lot of people said ‘Here we go again,’” Toronto swingman Morris Peterson said. “But if you look at our schedule we started out with the toughest part of our schedule.”
That portion of the schedule featured six road games, including a season-high five-game trip. The Raptors started their turnaround on Nov. 22 with a 95-87 home win over Cleveland (31-22).
“When we were 2-8, coming back from that trip, playing Cleveland, nobody thought we had a chance that game and we won it,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “Not only did we win it, we played very well. It’s just something about those guys, they won’t quit.”
Chris Bosh has been key during the home winning streak, averaging 29.6 points and 7.9 rebounds - including a career-high 41 points in a 113-103 win over Orlando on Feb. 7. The All-Star forward is averaging career highs of 23.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
He had 25 points and 14 rebounds in Toronto’s win over the Cavaliers in November, but shot just 8-for-22 in a 95-91 loss in Cleveland on Dec. 6. James had 26 points and 10 assists in that contest after registering 30 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four steals in the first meeting between the teams.
The All-Star forward is averaging 30.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists in seven career games in Toronto.
James led the Cavs with 38 points, and six teammates scored in double figures in a 114-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last Thursday before heading into the break.
“LeBron attacked tonight,” coach Mike Brown said. “When he attacks like this, he’s very hard to guard. He didn’t waste any dribbles, he didn’t waste any movement. Everything he did was with a purpose.”
James has played well on the road this season, averaging 27.3 points per game, but the Cavs are just 11-15 away from home.
The Cavaliers will again be without starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who did not travel to Toronto and will miss his third consecutive game due to family health matters, while veteran guard Damon Jones is questionable due to strep throat.
Cleveland opens the second half of the season in second place in the Central Division behind Detroit.
“I hope we win all 29 games,” Brown told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m actually not thinking about where we’re seeded in the playoffs or anything like that. I’m focused on us improving and become more consistent on both sides of the ball.”