Overshadowed as Golden State shot down history during the regular season, the Cavaliers are making this postseason their own.
LeBron James recorded a triple-double and Cleveland improved to 10-0 in the playoffs with a 108-89 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
James had 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Cavs became the fourth team to start the postseason with 10 straight wins, joining the Los Angeles Lakers (1989, 2001) and San Antonio Spurs (2012). Playing at a different level than the rest of the field, the Cavs are now two wins from appearing in their second straight NBA Finals and trying to end Cleveland’s 52-year sports championship drought.
Kyrie Irving scored 26 and Kevin Love 19 for Cleveland, which swept Detroit and Atlanta and has beaten Toronto by a combined 50 points in two games.
“I don’t think it feels like a streak,” James said of the Cavs’ rampage through the playoffs. “It feels like we won one game, we won the next game. We’ve taken one step at a time. We’ve tried to take care of business.”
The Raptors managed to hang around longer than in Game 1, when they were blown out by 31. But Toronto lacks the necessary firepower to stay with a Cleveland team playing its best basketball this season, one that James likened to a football team.
“We play offense, we play defense and we’re great at special teams as well,” he said.
Game 3 is Saturday in Toronto, where Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry can only hope the rims at Air Canada Centre are kinder than the ones in Quicken Loans Arena.
Lowry scored 10 points and is shooting 8 of 28 from the field, including 1 of 15 on 3-pointers in the series. However, he isn’t hanging his head.
“I’m super confident,” he said. “I missed countless 3s that I thought were good and that I made last series. That’s why I’m not down on myself. We’ve got a game on Saturday, and I know I’m going to be much more effective. Simple as that.
DeMar DeRozan scored 22 for the Raptors, who have had a disastrous debut in the conference finals to this point.
“We’re not quitting,” said coach Dwane Casey. “Everybody can bury us, but we’re not quitting. I refuse to believe that.”
James moved past Shaquille O’Neal into fourth place on the career postseason scoring list and posted his 15th playoff triple-double, securing it by running down rebound No. 10 with 8:01 left. He scored on Cleveland’s next possession, and while sitting on the bench during a subsequent timeout, he saluted applauding Cavs fans by pressing his fingers to his lips and touching his heart.
By then, the Cavs, who closed the first half with a decisive 16-2 run, were up 20 and coasting to another easy win in their so-far-spotless spring.
Earlier in the day, James was asked if the Cavs might need a loss to get them ready for the finals.
“We don’t want to lose,” he said.
And the Cavs are playing like it under coach Tyronn Lue, also a perfect 10 in the playoffs.
“It’s not easy,” said Lue, who took over when the Cavs fired David Blatt in January.
The Cavaliers, though, are making it look easy — too easy — during their pristine postseason.
The Raptors are confident Lowry will shoot his way out his slump.
“We still believe in him,” forward DeMarre Carroll said. “He’s going to show up once we get home. Sometimes you go through a rough stretch. I believe one he gets back home he’ll knock down those shots.”
The Raptors grumbled about being called for 31 fouls, compared to 16 for the Cavs. Cleveland also attempted 37 free throws to 18 for Toronto.
Casey and his coaching staff wanted to meet across the hallway from Toronto’s locker room following the game, but couldn’t get access because the door was locked.
Raptors: Luis Scola’s start was a surprise considering he played just five minutes in the entire Miami series. … Jonas Valanciunas’ status remains unknown for the remainder of the conference finals. Casey said he was on the practice floor Thursday. … Lowry and Lue have been close for years, and their friendship is being tested these days. Lowry texted Lue on Wednesday, wanting to get together and watch the Golden State-Oklahoma City game. “He knew he couldn’t,” Lue said. “He knew it wouldn’t look right.”
Cavaliers: At 10-0, Lue passed Pat Riley for the most consecutive playoff wins to begin a coaching career. Riley won nine straight in 1982. … Now that James (5,255) has passed O’Neal (5,250), next on the career postseason scoring list are Kobe Bryant (5,640), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,762) and Michael Jordan (5,987). … Abdul-Jabbar attended Game 2 and flashed the peace sign when he was shown on the arena’s giant scoreboard. He and James spoke briefly afterward. … G Matthew Dellavedova tweaked his ankle in the second half, but Lue said he should be OK.