LeBron, Cavaliers snap Raptors’ winning streak

“They’ve had our attention for the last couple of years. And LeBron James is still LeBron James, Kyrie Irving’s still Kyrie Irving, and I promise you, J.R. So when Dwane Casey, the sagely Raptors coach, hears the ‘My House is Burning Down’ reaction of the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers to their recent run of losses, he only smiles that knowing smile and suggests that everybody calm down a bit.“Again, everybody goes through that,” Casey said before Monday’s game against the Cavaliers at Air Canada Centre. “They’re still the Cleveland Cavaliers. Smith has not forgotten how to shoot the ball.“To me, it’s just a blip on the radar screen. In the grand scheme of things, a three-game losing skid in the uber-competitive National Basketball Association is hardly the sort of thing to turn your world upside down.By this time last season, the Toronto Raptors, for example, had already endured a couple of three-game slides – and things did not exactly turn to stone for them after that. Everyone goes through this, and they’re still the king of the hill until somebody knocks them off.”It would not be the Raptors, at least on this night, as the Cavaliers (14-5) were able to hold off for a 116-112 triumph during an invigorating engagement at the ACC that snapped the Raptors (14-7) win streak at six games.The Cavaliers displayed just too much elite firepower for the Raptors to manage, with four players scoring in double figures, led by 34 points from James.Kevin Love chipped in with 28 points and 14 rebounds while Toronto native Tristan Thompson factored in with 14 rebounds and six points.“We’ve got to play a perfect game to beat a team like that,” Casey said afterwards. But the Raptors were on a heady surge, having won their last six – their last four by a ridiculous average margin of 29.8 points – while the Cavaliers came in on an unaccustomed three-game losing skid.It was the longest such downward spiral in the 59-game regular-season tenure of Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue, and it obviously got the attention of King James.“We’ve got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James intoned to reporters after the Cavaliers were dumped by the Chicago Bulls in their previous outing on Friday.Earlier on Monday, James complimented Toronto on its recent burst, paying homage to what he referred to as the Raptors “two-headed monster” in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry for helping to blaze that trail.“They’ve had our attention,” James said of the Raptors as a whole. I think they’ve had the NBA’s attention.”Even for a game in December, the contest had all the trappings of a playoff battle and the players were certainly not holding anything back.James shook himself up before 90 seconds had elapsed in the first quarter when he landed awkwardly after drilling home a fetching alley-oop feed from Irving, but was able to remain in the game.The same fortune did not befall Smith, Cleveland’s starting shooting guard who exited the game late in the first quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return.That was around the same time Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry took a lick to his upper lip by a Kevin Love elbow that required freezing before he could re-enter the contest.The game rolled back and forth with a quick, crowd-pleasing tempo that resulted in both teams enjoying six-point leads at one point.Late in the second quarter, after Toronto’s Patrick Patterson and Love toppled over like bowling pins after a heavy collision at the top of the key, DeAndre Liggins connected on one of two free throws that provided the Cavaliers with a 62-61 lead by the break.The Cavaliers began to flex their considerable muscle at the start of the third quarter, reeling off six straight points to pad their advantage to 68-61.They would build on that, with Irving negotiating a behind the back pass off the fast break to James for an easy layup that was followed up by a Love three that left Toronto staring up at an 82-72 hole.By the end of three the Cavaliers led 90-81. They fell just two victories shy of a berth in the NBA Finals. “Whether it’s mental breakdowns or whatever – no execution, not close out properly…all those little things matter in the flow of the game.”The game got away from Toronto in second half, the fourth quarter in particular when the Cavaliers pulled away during a three-point slugfest that left the Raptors reeling.A James three-ball with just over four minutes remaining put Cleveland ahead 107-92, too much for the Raptors to battle back from.A DeRozan three with 10.3 seconds left, that would have cut the score to 114-112, was ruled out of bounds.That proved the Raptors’ last gasp.DeRozan would finish with 31 points as the Cavaliers beat Toronto for the third time this season.It is always a moment when James comes to town with the Cavaliers, especially after last season’s bitterly contested Eastern Conference final in which Cleveland prevailed four games to two over Toronto in the best-of-seven affair.And the two teams are back at the top of the Eastern Conference heap in the early going this season, with the Cavaliers holding a slender advantage over the Raptors by mere percentage points heading into Monday’s contest for the best overall record.Cleveland had already beaten the Raptors on two occasions this season.