Jonas Valanciunas scored 14 points in the second-half to lead the Toronto Raptors to a come-from-behind 98-91 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Air Canada Centre on Friday night.
The second-year centre from Lithuania paced a third-quarter surge by the Raptors as they ended Cleveland’s six-game winning streak.
With the win, the Raptors (30-25) equalled the third-fastest time they’ve reached the 30-win mark in team history, just one game off the best mark of 54 games in 2009-10 and 2007-08.
Valanciunas had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Raptors while Terrence Ross had a team-high 20 points. Both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry tossed in 14 points.
Luol Deng had 21 points for Cleveland (22-34) to lead all scorers while Brampton, Ont. native Tristan Thompson had 13, and Anthony Bennett of Brampton, who last year became the first Canadian to go first overall in the NBA draft, added nine points in his league debut in Toronto.
The Raptors outscored Cleveland 37-21 in the third quarter to take control of the game.
Valanciunas made a layup with 7:22 to go in the quarter to give the Raptors a 53-52 lead.
They never trailed again in widening their lead atop the NBA’s Atlantic Division to 3.5 games over the idle Brooklyn Nets. Toronto is third in the Eastern Conference behind Indiana and Miami.
Valanciunas scored 10 points in the third quarter, including five in a row during a 4:07 stretch that saw the Raptors turn a one-point deficit into a 10-point lead.
The Raptors, ice cold shooting from the field in the opening half, shot an impressive 16-for 23, or 69.5 per cent, in the third quarter on the way to winning their fourth game in five starts.
The Cavaliers took a 44-39 lead into the locker room at halftime as both teams struggled with their field goal shooting in the face of tough defence, poor ball-handling and referees disinterested in calling fouls.
Cleveland hit 16-for-35, or 45.7 per cent, from the field in the opening half with Kyrie Irving leading the way with eight points while Deng and Thompson added seven points apiece.
But the Cavaliers, who led by as many as nine in the opening half, committed 10 turnovers in the half.
The Raptors, meanwhile shot just 16-for-49, or 32.7 per cent, in the first half as DeRozan, Lowry and Amir Johnson were a combined 3-for-20 from the field.
Toronto shot a woeful 5-for-22, or 22.7 per cent, from the field in the opening 12 minutes, with Ross the only Toronto starter to make a basket. He had eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, as the Raptors trailed 22-16 after the first quarter.
Cleveland shot better in the first, hitting 50 per cent of their field goals, but committed five turnovers.
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