CLEVELAND (AP) — Rookie Evan Mobley had 20 points and 17 rebounds, Lauri Markkanen scored 22 and the Cleveland Cavaliers widened their lead on Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings with a 104-96 win over the Raptors on Sunday night.
The Cavs won for just the second time in eight games. They’re trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018 — and with just over a month left in the regular season, every game matters.
Darius Garland had 17 points and 10 assists, Cedi Osman added 17 points and Kevin Love 15 as Cleveland improved to 3-0 against Toronto.
Pascal Siakam scored 24 points and Chris Boucher 21 for the Raptors, who opened a six-game road trip without All-Star guard Fred VanVleet (knee soreness) or forward OG Anunoby (fractured finger).
Down 18 in the fourth, the Raptors closed within 100-95, but Garland made two free throws and Osman’s steal with 56 seconds left helped seal it for the Cavs.
Injuries to VanVleet and backup Malachi Flynn led to Toronto coach Nick Nurse starting rookie Scottie Barnes at point guard. He finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 42 minutes.
As has been the case all season, the loss came with some concern for the Cavs. All-Star center Jarrett Allen left in the second quarter with a bruised quadriceps and did not return. He had six points and two rebounds in 10 minutes.
Cleveland came in having lost six of seven, but there were encouraging signs of the young team snapping out of its recent funk in a 125-119 loss at Philadelphia on Friday. A matchup against the team directly behind them in the standings figured to be a bigger test.
“To do what we want to do, this is a moment and challenge for us,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said pregame.
Cleveland led by 13 at halftime and then overcame a brutal third quarter — 16 points, 1 of 10 on 3-pointers — by opening an 82-64 lead early in the fourth. Love then hit a 3-pointer and reserve Dean Wade delivered a thunderous dunk over Toronto’s Khem Birch.
Raptors: Finished 6 of 24 on 3-pointers. … VanVleet has missed the past five games, but Nurse believes he’ll be back “shortly.” Toronto is off the next two days and Nurse is optimistic the “extra couple days will get him ready to go.” … Anunoby, averaging career highs in points (17.5), rebounds (5.5), has missed seven straight games.
Cavaliers: Markkanen added a season-high 12 rebounds. … G Rajon Rondo (sprained toe) sat out his fifth game in a row while G Caris LeVert (sprained foot) missed his sixth straight. “Both of them are taking steps in the right direction,” Bickerstaff said.
COACH K TRIBUTE
Nurse attended Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night as a guest of Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, whose son, AJ, is a freshman forward for the Blue Devils.
Nurse said one of his biggest takeaways from the event was Coach K’s deep connection to the school.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “The guy was there for 42 years. When I was 30, I had nine jobs already. It seems impossible that that was his vision and that was his plan and to execute it to such a level of magnificence.
“That’s what he wanted to do and to keep it all together and do it in relationship-slash-family way.”
Raptors: At San Antonio on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: Visit Indiana on Tuesday to start a three-game road swing. Cleveland is 3-0 this season against Indiana.
© 2022 The Canadian Press