December 05, 2014

It's been nearly two months since the Toronto Raptors lost at home, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking notice.

Only three games separate the Eastern Conference's top two teams, a deficit the Raptors have a chance to trim when the Cavaliers visit Air Canada Centre on Friday night.

Toronto (38-18) hasn't allowed the Cavaliers to distance themselves by winning 17 times in a 20-game stretch for the first time in team history. The Raptors have been unbeatable at home over that period, winning nine straight to match a single-season franchise record established from March 7-April 4, 1999.

After extending the streak with Wednesday's 114-105 victory over Minnesota, Toronto can tie the club mark for consecutive home wins set between the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.

Cleveland (41-15) has been able to maintain its hold on the top spot by winning 11 of 14 since losing coach Tyronn Lue's debut on Jan. 23. It had a five-game winning streak halted with Monday's 96-88 home loss to Detroit, but recovered strongly in Wednesday's 114-103 victory over surging Charlotte.

Held to a season low-tying 12 points on 5-of-18 shooting by the Pistons, LeBron James bounced back by scoring 10 of his 23 in the first quarter and helping the Cavaliers to a season-high 40 in the second.

"It was fortunate for us that LeBron was able to attack early and set the tone for us," Lue said.

Kyrie Irving also had 23 points and Channing Frye went 4 of 8 from 3-point range in recording 15 in his second game since being acquired from Orlando at last week's trade deadline.

"He adds another dynamic piece to our team we hadn't had up to this point," James said of Frye.

Frye, a career 38.7 percent 3-point shooter, does add another outside threat to a Cleveland team that's had much success from the perimeter in two prior 2015-16 meetings with Toronto. The Cavaliers were 14 of 29 from beyond the arc in a 103-99 loss at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 25 and finished 17 of 33 in a 122-100 home rout on Jan. 4.

Irving's return from last June's fractured kneecap has also made a difference. He had 25 points in the last matchup after missing the first and is averaging 24.3 points on 52.8 percent shooting over his last seven games.

The Raptors continue to be led by their All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. The duo combined for 52 points against Minnesota and hit two critical 3-pointers each in the final 3 1/2 minutes as Toronto closed the game on a 13-4 run.

"It was a gutsy win. We found a way to win defensively and DeMar DeRozan made some big plays down the stretch," coach Dwane Casey said.

DeRozan ended with 31 points and is averaging 25.3 over his last 11, while Lowry scored 12 of his 21 in the fourth quarter and didn't have a turnover. He's had six giveaways during a five-game stretch in which the Raptors are averaging a league-low 9.6 per game.

Cleveland, which has won four of five against Toronto, did a better job taking care of the ball Wednesday. After committing 18 turnovers - six from James - that led to 23 Detroit points, the Cavaliers had nine against Charlotte.

The Cavaliers will be without guard Mo Williams for at least the next two games so he can receive treatment on his injured left knee.

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