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Waiters continues torrid play in Cavaliers win

The SportsXchange

CLEVELAND -- Rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters is blossoming right before the Cavaliers' eyes.

The 6-foot-4, 221-pounder had a team-high 23 points and six assists on Wednesday as the Cavs held off the Toronto Raptors 103-92 before an announced crowd of 13,368 at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Cavs (20-38) have won four of their last five games. They also finished 7-5 in February for their first above-.500 month since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.

"It was a legitimate winning month," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "I'm pretty happy with the way we closed out the month."

The Cavs are also pretty happy with the way Waiters closed out the game. He has topped the 20-point barrier in each of his last three games. He's averaging 24.3 points in that span. He's more than making up for the loss of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has missed the last two games with a hyperextended right knee.

"We were ballin'," Waiters said. "I live for that. I grew up watching Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. I'm glad to be in that position. I wanted to be a facilitator."

Waiters converted 7 of 16 from the field, 7 of 8 from the foul line. The Cavs shot 93.8 percent from the foul line (30 of 32).

"He has gotten more comfortable," Scott said. "He knows what he has to do with Kyrie out. The last few games, he's done a good job.

"He knows he's the one guy we have who can beat guys off the dribble. He's not exceeding (our expectations), but he's getting close."

The Raptors (23-35) had a three-game road winning streak snapped. They had also won four consecutive games at The Q.

Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan had a game-high 34 points, including 15 in the third quarter. He matched his career high with 14 free throws in 15 attempts.

"It's just a passion to win, not just for myself, but for everybody," DeRozan said. "I understand how much each game means for our season right now. These are critical moments.

"We need to come out, put this game behind us and get ready for Indiana."

Recently acquired Rudy Gay added 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

The Cavs' bench outscored Toronto's 39-8.

"We can't play our starters 48 minutes," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "I wish we could. The guys coming off the bench have to be ready to play."

Veteran Shaun Livingston had 15 points, five rebounds, six assists and one block. He's averaged 15 points in his two starts subbing for Irving.

The Cavs are now 10-6 since they acquired center Marreese Speights and shooting guard Wayne Ellington from the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 22. The 6-10 Speights had 11 points, a team-high nine rebounds and a block, while Ellington had 13 points and three rebounds.

Power forward Tristan Thompson, a native of Toronto, had 14 points and eight rebounds. Swingman C.J. Miles added 10 points off the bench.

The Cavs missed 14 of their first 15 shots. Part of that could have been because it was their fourth game in five nights.

They retaliated by shooting 71.4 percent from the field in the second quarter. For the game, they shot 41.5 percent from the floor.

"We continue to take steps in the right direction," Scott said. "We were able to close it out.

"We have a bunch of new guys and new faces. It just takes time. Everybody understands their role."

One who definitely does is power forward Luke Walton, playing his best basketball of the season. He had five points, seven rebounds and a team-high seven assists.

"He had some terrific passes," Scott said. "We try to put the ball in his hands a lot. All our guys have to do is get open. Luke has been fantastic."

The Raptors didn't give up.

"I thought in the second half, we battled, scratched and clawed," Casey said. "When you build yourself such a hole against a talented team like that, it's hard to get it back."

NOTES: Irving had an MRI in Chicago on Monday. He missed his second game in a row and 13th game this season. There's a chance he could return for Friday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. "We'll see," Scott said. "I don't know. I do know that it would give him four days of rest. So, we'll see how he feels (on Thursday). (We'll) tackle that situation when it comes on Friday." ... Cavs guard Daniel Gibson, who missed the previous three games for personal reasons, has rejoined the team and was available to play vs. the Raptors. He turned 27 on Wednesday. Forward Omri Casspi (appendectomy) remains out. Scott said he'll probably see Casspi on Friday. ... After their trade with Memphis on Jan. 30, the Raptors are starting to believe they are a playoff team. They started the night five games behind No. 8 Milwaukee for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. They now have a legitimate scoring threat in Gay. They are 7-5 since he's been available to play. He averaged 21 points and 6.7 rebounds in his first 11 games with the Raptors. "When teams make a run on you, (Gay) can quell it with an offensive move, a one-on-one move, and get us a couple buckets that will stem the tide," Casey said. It's not going to be easy making up five games, but making the playoffs is now a possibility. "That's our goal," Casey said. "That's what we're scratching and clawing for. We're within striking distance." ... Former Cavs majority owner Gordon Gund, who spoke before the game, has a soft spot in his heart for his 1986 team. When he listens to the Cavs play this season, he can't help but think back to that season. "We had four rookies all starting on that team, too, in Brad Daugherty, 'Hot Rod' Williams, Mark Price and Ron Harper, which was a darn good group, too," Gund said.
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