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.
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. 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 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.
Missing center Jonas Valanciunas because of a sprained right ankle, Casey tweaked his lineup by starting forward Luis Scola over Patrick Patterson. The move helped Toronto’s second unit, as Patterson and Terrance Ross gave the Raptors an early lift and had them tied with the Cavs at 46-all.
But Cleveland closed the first half with a 16-2 burst, capped by a three-point play from James, who was already flirting with a triple-double when he headed to the locker room.
Casey felt the need to speak with his players after their Game 7 win over Miami about not being satisfied in what’s already been the deepest postseason run in franchise history.
He felt they weren’t nearly as aggressive as they needed to be in the opener. His Game 2 message was simple: “You’ve got to outwork them. You’ve got to out-scrap them.”
The Raptors came out with a different mindset and were much more physical than in Game 1.
But it didn’t last long before the Cavs pushed back and kept their postseason pristine.