Jerryd Bayless scored 20 points, Andrea Bargnani added 17 and Toronto slowed Cleveland’s playoff push with a 96-88 victory Tuesday night, the Raptors’ third over the Cavaliers this season.
Bayless started in place of injured point guard Jose Calderon and added seven assists in 37 minutes while leading the Raptors to just their 14th win.
The Cavaliers had their winning streak stopped at three. Cleveland blew a chance to move into a virtual tie with idle New York and Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Antawn Jamison, who has been mentioned in trade rumours all season, led the Cavs with 20 points. Rookie Kyrie Irving scored 14 and Alonzo Gee 16.
The Cavs were still within six points in the final minute when Bargnani rebounded his own miss and dunked to close the scoring.
Toronto has had a disappointing season – except against Cleveland.
Bayless’s three-pointer and two free throws gave the Raptors an 88-73 lead with 6:02 remaining. The Cavs got within six on Gee’s three-pointer, but on Toronto’s next possession, Bayless was unable to get Irving to leave his feet with several ball fakes before burying a stone-cold jumper to make it a 90-82 lead.
The Cavs were still within 94-88 when Bargnani missed his shot, grabbed his rebound with one hand in the lane and slammed it home to end Cleveland’s night.
For good measure, Toronto’s Amir Johnson rejected Irving’s three-point try at the horn.
Irving was unable to conjure up some of the fourth-quarter magic he has shown in recent games, and finished just 5 of 17 from the floor. In three games against Toronto, the likely NBA rookie of the year went 10 of 42. Irving did add seven rebounds and seven assists.
Cleveland’s recent surge, coupled with a slide by the Knicks, has pushed the Cavaliers into the playoff race, a place they never dreamed of being just a few weeks ago.
It’s put the Cavs in a tricky spot. With the NBA’s trading deadline at 3 p.m. on Thursday, they have to decide whether to keep this team together or plan for the future.
Jamison and backup point guard Ramon Sessions have been involved in trade rumours for months.
Cavs coach Byron Scott would prefer to keep this squad intact, but understands the league’s business side.
“I like this team,” Scott said. “I like the guys we have. The guys who have been rumoured to be going from here to there, I love the way these guys have been able to play with this team and what they give to this organization, but I’ve been in this league long enough to understand things might happen.
“For me, I’m good either way it goes because I know anything we’re going to do will be for the betterment of this organization.”
For now, what’s best is to avoid the Raptors.