Cavaliers 120, Raptors 97
CLEVELAND (AP)—The little boy in the front row stuck out his tongue, razzing LeBron James enough that he clanged a free throw.
Luckily, LeBron James Jr. didn’t make his daddy miss again.
By scoring more than 30 for the third straight game, James raised his average to 33.6 points in his past seven games—a tear that began with a 38-point performance in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 15.
“I’ve got to get to the rim, and I’ve got to go up there and make my free throws,” James said. “I did that tonight and I’m going to continue to do that.”
James went 15-for-17 from the line. He came in making just 68 percent of his free throws, a stat that has brought Cleveland’s All-Star forward plenty of criticism this season.
James’ first miss came midway through the second half. He was fouled on a drive to the basket before time was called. When the Cavs returned to the floor, James stepped to the line and looked over at his family sitting courtside, only to find his 2-year-old son giving him a raspberry.
James laughed, then missed.
“I’m already getting a hard time from everybody else, and now my son’s sticking his tongue out at me and wanting me to miss,” James said, laughing. “He can do that. He made me concentrate more. It’s easy for him to take my concentration away. He’s the only one that can do that.”
Hughes, mired in a prolonged shooting slump, went 11-of-17 from the floor. With rookie point guard Daniel Gibson out with an injury, Hughes played some point guard in the Cavaliers’ fifth straight win over the Raptors in Cleveland. Hughes was just 31-of-95 in his last five games.
“This is where I need to be,” Hughes said. “I can’t shoot that much and not be productive. It doesn’t help me or my team. Tonight was how I need to play every night.”
Leading by 10 at halftime, the Cavaliers pulled away by committing just one turnover while outscoring the Raptors 31-22 in the third quarter.
Toronto played without rookie forward Andrea Bargnani. The No. 1 overall selection in last year’s draft flew back to Italy to be with his ailing grandfather. The club is hoping to have him for Tuesday’s game at Washington.
Ford’s layup cut Cleveland’s lead to 70-65 midway through the third quarter. But James, who scored 39 in a loss at Dallas on Thursday, hit a jumper, Anderson Varejao scored inside and Sasha Pavlovic drained a 3-pointer—his first field goal after seven straight misses—to put the Cavs up by 12.
The Raptors, who lost at home to Milwaukee on Friday, weren’t able to get closer than 10 the rest of the way as the Cavs posted their second-highest point total this season.
Gibson’s injury forced Cavs coach Mike Brown to juggle his starting lineup again, and he went with a big first group with the 6-foot-5 Hughes and 6-6 Pavlovic in the backcourt.
But, as usual, James was the biggest force on the floor.
Since the All-Star break, James has played with a renewed confidence and swagger, something that wasn’t always present in the season’s first half when he appeared tired. Whatever was missing, James has it back.
“He made shots,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “LeBron is a great player. We tried to trap him when he used the screens, but if he didn’t use the screens, he’d shoot fallaway 3s. There’s nothing you can do.”
Cavaliers rookie Shannon Brown banked in a 3-pointer from halfcourt at the horn to end the first half, giving the Cavaliers a 62-52 lead.
At halftime, the Cavs honored their 1986-87 team, welcoming back former players Mark Price and Craig Ehlo among others. … Mitchell said the club will give Bargnani as much time as he needs to tend to personal matters. “There is a life after basketball, family,” he said. “He’s part of our basketball family but he has his immediate family to take care of. I know Andrea will get back as soon as he can.” … Brown, who finished with a season-high 14 points, has been a busy man. After playing in Dallas on Thursday, he was assigned to Albuquerque of the NBA Development League on Friday. He helped the Thunderbirds beat Arkansas before being recalled by the Cavs on Saturday. That’s three games in three nights. … Raptors G/F Anthony Parker missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle.