TORONTO — Kyrie Irving has won two of his last three games on 3-pointers.
So, there’s a little more pressure in June than October, but nevertheless, Irving showed off that same steely nerve that beat the Warriors in Game 7 with a 3-ball with 44.3 seconds left that gave the Cavs a 94-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday night.
This time, Irving’s big shot came from the top of the key off a pass from LeBron James. You of course recall his championship-winning 3 against Golden State, where he was iso’d with Stephen Curry and drained a step-back 3 from the right side.
“I tried to make a move for myself, get into the seams, but when I seen the defense collapse, I know where my guy was gonna be,” James said. “I knew where Kyrie was … and I know he’s a big-time player and it was a big-time moment and he knocked it down.”
Irving led the Cavs with 26 points to go with six rebounds and six assists, and is averaging 27.5 points in two games. He passed Wesley Person (550 3s) for fourth place in franchise history in 3-pointers and made five against the Raptors.
James stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. He passed Patrick Ewing (9,702 field goals) for 15th place in NBA history in baskets.
Kevin Love contributed 18 points and 10 boards; Toronto-native Tristan Thompson registered 11 points and 10 rebounds.
DeMar DeRozan paced the Raptors with 32 points. He’s scored 72 in Toronto’s first two games — the most in team history.
Toronto didn’t lead until there was 2:37 left in the game when Kyle Lowry’s free throw put them ahead 89-88. That this one came down to the closing minute was little surprise, as the Raptors finished one game behind Cleveland in the East last season and made it tough on the Cavs multiple times in Toronto.
The Raptors beat Cleveland both times at Air Canada Centre last regular season, and again in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. But it was also here where the Cavs punched their ticket to the Finals, eviscerating the home team 113-87 in Game 6.
The Cavs played without reserve big man Channing Frye, who is not with the team because of the death of his mother. Tyronn Lue basically used just three players off the bench, and they combined for 10 points. Iman Shumpert returned from concussion symptoms to play point guard behind Kyrie Irving, and finished with six points and four rebounds.
Rookie Kay Felder’s NBA debut didn’t come. He was available but didn’t play.
“I like having a bigger guy and a bigger body on Kyle and Cory Joseph,” Lue said, explaining his decision to go with Shumpert exclusively over Felder. “Just being physical and bringing physicality.”
Either way, Cleveland has the early lead in the East’s horse race for first, even if it’s way, way too early to pay attention to such things.
“Finishing first should be a life priority,” James said before the game. “You should want to finish first in everything. But, for us, we’re put in that position, we would love to have an extra game on our floor for our fans. … We know our ultimate goal is to win a championship, but it’s too far away to even think about it. You know, it’s, is it even November yet? See, I don’t even know what month it is. It’s almost Halloween. It’s too far away to be contemplating the end of the season goals for our team.”
Lowry added 17 points for the Raptors.