Los Angeles (AFP) – LeBron James notched a triple-double and the Cleveland Cavaliers roared back to stun the Raptors 113-112 in overtime in Toronto on Tuesday in game one of their NBA playoff second-round series.
It was a heart-breaker for the Raptors, who had led all night only to see James knot the score at 105-105 with 30.9 seconds left in regulation.
Toronto, the Eastern Conference top seeds for the first time in franchise history, missed their last 11 shots of regulation and Cleveland made them pay, taking the lead for the first time on Kyle Korver’s three-pointer to open overtime.
The Raptors wouldn’t regain the lead. Kyle Lowry converted a three-point play to pull Toronto within 113-112 with 57 seconds remaining.
After Cleveland were called for a shot-clock violation Toronto had a last chance, but Fred VanVleet missed a potential game-winner.
“It was an all around team win for us,” James said. “Everybody contributed tonight, and we needed it.”
The heartbreaking defeat is sure to raise the spectre of playoffs past for the Raptors, who fell to the Cavs in six games in the Eastern Conference finals two years ago and were swept by Cleveland in the second round last year.
James, who said he was “burnt” after the Cavs clinched a seven-game first-round win over Indiana on Sunday, made just 12 of 30 shots from the floor but still recorded the 21st playoff triple-double of his career with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds.
“I definitely wasn’t as efficient as I like to be,” James said. “I missed a lot of open looks. It was probably one of my worst games of the season.
“But at the end of the day the only thing that matters is that my team-mates stepped up and got the win when I wasn’t at my best.”
JR smith scored 20 points and Korver added 19. Tristan Thompson came off the bench to add 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavs and Jordan Clarkson chipped in 16 points.
“To have five guys in double figures, with Kevin (Love) and LeBron shooting 15 of 43, it means a lot,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Guys stepped up to the plate.
“We didn’t play great, but we played tough,” Lue added. “We stayed the course.”
– Raptors go cold late –
The well-rested Raptors got off to a fast start, with Lowry and DeMar DeRozan’s combined 19 points in the first quarter matching the Cavs’ total as Toronto led 33-19 after one period.
Cleveland charged back into the game with a 38-point second quarter. Smith and reserve Jordan Clarkson scored 11 points apiece in the second as the Cavs sliced the deficit from as many as 14 to three points at halftime.
Toronto were up by five heading into the fourth but went stone cold down the stretch.
The Raptors connected on just five of 25 shots in the final period and after James’s jump shot tied the score at 105-105 Toronto failed to convert four attempts on their final possession before overtime.
Jonas Valanciunas delivered a big game in defeat, with 21 points and 21 rebounds. DeRozan added 22 points and Lowry had 18 points and 10 assists for the Raptors, who host game two on Thursday.
“We’ve taken care of business tonight and now we want to get game two as well,” James said.