January 5, 2016 / 4:06 AM / 3 years ago

Smooth Irving shines for Cavs in big win over Raptors

(The Sports Xchange) - Kyrie Irving has talked for weeks about shaking off the rust since his return from a long injury layoff but the Cavaliers guard moved like a well-oiled machine in Cleveland’s 122-100 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

Jan 4, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) and Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph (6) go for a loose ball during the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Irving scored a season-high 25 points while adding eight assists and six rebounds, and forward LeBron James had 20 points and seven assists while sitting out the fourth quarter on a night when all five Cavs starters scored in double figures.

Guard Kyle Lowry had 23 points and 10 assists, and guard DeMar DeRozan had 19 points for the Raptors, who twice rallied from big deficits before the Cavs (23-9) pulled away for good in the last quarter to register a fourth consecutive victory.

“They play as hard and as together as anyone in the league, except for San Antonio,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters of the Cavs. “If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game against them, you’re going to be embarrassed.”

The Raptors (21-15) were far from being embarrassed but they could not keep pace in the fourth quarter. They went scoreless for more than four minutes, allowing Cleveland to turn a seven-point game into a blowout.

A jumper from backup center Timofey Mozgov extended the Cavs’ lead to 108-87 with 6:13 left, the first 20-point lead of the game.

The Raptors rallied from 13 down in the first half to take a brief lead in the second quarter. They also tied the game at 69-69 in the third on a three-pointer from James Johnson, who was starting at forward in place of DeMarre Carroll (knee).

However, James’ three-pointer to close the third pushed the lead back to 90-78 and the Cavs were never threatened again.

Guard J.R. Smith made a season-high eight three-pointers to score 24, while forward Kevin Love had 14 points and nine rebounds, and center Tristan Thompson had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cavs, who improved to 15-1 at home.

The Raptors beat the Cavs at Toronto in late November when Cleveland was missing half of its rotation. Things changed dramatically on Monday in large part to Irving, who continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery.

Irving shot just 29 percent in his first three games back from a fractured kneecap but has shot 48 percent in his past three. He scored at least 20 points in two of his past three games and his eight assists were also a season high.

Editing by John O'Brien

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