CLEVELAND — Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao committed a crucial turnover on an inbounds play with 7.8 seconds left that could have cost his team the game.
“It was a bad feeling,” Varejao said.
That quickly turned to elation when Toronto Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez returned the favor by turning it over with 1.9 seconds left.
It preserved the Cavaliers’ 102-100 victory over the Raptors on Tuesday before 15,497 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Vasquez appeared to slip and fell down as time ran out. The ball flew up in the air and into forward Luol Deng’s hands, which ended the Raptors’ comeback.
Varejao was taking the ball out-of-bounds near the Raptors bench. The pass was intended for Deng, but it sailed out-of-bounds.
“Lu said (Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan) grabbed him (around the waist),” Varejao said. “I didn’t want to throw a soft pass. There was nobody behind him.”
Vasquez didn’t shy away from the blame.
“I’ll take responsibility and not run away,” he said. “I’m a man. Wish I could be in that position again.”
The Cavaliers (28-44) prevailed over the Raptors for the first time in three tries this season.
“We found a way to stay competitive,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “That’s a playoff team. We already lost two games to them this year. For us to stay competitive and get a win, it was big for us.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey cautioned before the game that even though the Cavaliers have not been rewarded with a lot of wins as of late, they have been playing winning basketball.
Toronto (39-31), the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, had trouble keeping pace with Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters for much of the night.
He fired in a game-high 24 points and dished out seven assists. Since he was inserted into the starting lineup five games ago, he averaged 23.8 points and 6.4 assists. He recorded four consecutive games of 20 or more points.
“Dion Waiters is playing at a high level,” Casey said.
All five starters scored in double figures for the Cavaliers, who have won two in a row.
They snapped a string of five consecutive losses at Quicken Loans Arena.
Power forward Tristan Thompson helped the Cavaliers dominate the boards with 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. The Cavaliers outrebounded Toronto, 49-38.
“Tristan’s energy was great for us,” Brown said. “That’s the Tristan we were used to seeing.”
The Atlantic Division-leading Raptors used a staggering 18-5 run in the third quarter to trim a 21-point deficit. They cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 88-81 after three quarters, and that was only after a late 3-pointer by Deng.
Deng, in just his second game back for the Cavaliers, finished with 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
“They’ve got a lot of talented players that are back healthy now,” Casey said. “(Anderson) Varejao is back. He’s always been a thorn in everybody’s side.”
Torrid 3-point shooting by the Raptors brought them back in the contest. For the game, they made 14 of 32 shots from behind the arc.
Guard Kyle Lowry recorded a double-double with 22 points and 10 assists for the Raptors.
Sharpshooting forward Ross and Vasquez each added 16 points for Toronto.
The Cavaliers shot 51.4 percent from the field against the defensive-minded Raptors. But Brown was most impressed with his team’s defensive effort.
“They missed some shots, but part of it we had something to do with,” Brown said. “They shot 39.8 percent from the floor for the game. That’s attributed to our competitive spirit throughout the course of the game.”
Casey bemoaned about bad luck on the last play.
“If it wasn’t for bad luck, we couldn’t have any luck on that one,” he said. “You go back to one play and that’s not (how) the game was decided. The game was decided the way we approached it in the first quarter.”
The Cavaliers amassed an amazing 20 rebounds in the first quarter, as they led, 26-17.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Waiters said. “We didn’t get rattled. We made plays when we had to.”
NOTES: Mike Brown now has 300 career victories as head coach of the Cavaliers. He joins Bill Fitch (304) and Lenny Wilkens (316) as the only coaches with at least 300 wins. … Cavaliers F Luol Deng was just starting to hit his stride — he averaged 19 points on a recent three-game West Coast trip — before he sprained his left ankle, causing him to miss three games. He said he had no problems in his first game back, Sunday in New York, when he had 13 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes against the Knicks. “Everything is fine,” he said. … There are no updates on injured Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving (strained tendon left biceps), F Anthony Bennett (strained patellar tendon) and G/F C.J. Miles (sprained left ankle). … The Raptors entered the game ranked sixth overall in points allowed. “It’s an ongoing process,” coach Dwane Casey said. “You have preach about it every day. I would argue that an up-tempo team would never win a championship. To win in the East, you have to be a defensive-first team. Have we arrived? No.”
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