Carlos Boozer added 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who hadn’t won five in a row since December, 2000.
“I didn’t know if I was going to help us win more games than last year. I just wanted to make an impact,” said James, whose team is 29-36 after going 17-65 last season. “I’ve been able to do that even more than I thought I could.”
Cleveland won its 11th road game, its most since 1997-98—the last time the Cavs made the playoffs. The Cavaliers are 11-10 on the road since starting the season 0-13.
“We are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the way we’re playing and gelling together,” James said. “We’re closing games out. It’s just unbelievable what we’re doing.”
James credits the acquisition of point guard Jeff McInnis for the recent surge.
“We’ve got the second best record in the East since we got Jeff, we’re 15-8 since then,” James said. “It’s just opening up things for me and Z.”
James added 14 points as Cleveland moved two games ahead of Toronto in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Cavaliers have won 14 of their past 18 games against Eastern opponents.
“The possibility of the playoffs is right there,” James said. “If we want to grab it we can, and I say we can.”
Ilgauskas has played for some bad teams in his seven years in Cleveland.
“You don’t have to tell me we’ve won five in a row, I know,” Ilgauskas said. “I’ve been here a long time. Hopefully, we’ll keep this thing going.”
Vince Carter had 19 points for the Raptors, who have lost four of five. Carter left the game early in the fourth quarter because of a problem with his dental braces.
Toronto has won just two of its last 15 games and is still without Jalen Rose and Alvin Williams. Rose, who broke his left hand, is expected to return within the next two weeks, while Williams is out indefinitely after having knee surgery last month.
“Cleveland took it to us from the beginning,” Toronto coach Kevin O’Neill said. “That’s a team that’s playing great basketball right now. They are hitting on all cylinders and they wore us down.”
Ilgauskas, guarded by rookie center Chris Bosh, had 18 points in the first half as the Cavaliers led by as many as 17.
Toronto began the second half on a 13-4 run, cutting Cleveland’s 13-point halftime lead to four, but Tony Battie capped a 11-0 run with two free throws to give the Cavaliers a 14-point lead late in the quarter.
Ilgauskas scored six of Cleveland’s first 10 points of the fourth quarter. His layup made it a 92-76 with 8:16 left, and his two free throws gave Cleveland a 14-point lead with 5:55 left.
Fans booed the Raptors after Lee Nailon made it a 16-point lead with 4:40 remaining.
Bosh didn’t appreciate the booing.
“They’ve been getting on us all season. You can go somewhere else and the team could be down by six and their crowd will be behind them still. These guys boo,” Bosh said.
Cleveland outrebounded Toronto 48-38.
James says he’s tired, but that he hasn’t hit the rookie wall. “It’s the longest season I’ve ever played,” he said. “If we were losing a lot and not in a playoff hunt than it’d be more tiring, but we are able to win and that’s keeping my energy up.” … Actor Eugene Levy sat courtside. … Nailonhad 15 points.