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Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 112-106 statement of another win over the visiting Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
1. Well, that was fun. That was the type of game the Cavs needed and wanted against the team with the best record in the East, and with the playoffs just a little more than a week away. Homecourt edge will belong to the Raptors; but the advantage belongs to the Cavaliers.
2. The Cavs have played the Raptors twice in two weeks. Both times, the Cavs won. Neither time did it seem like they had to feel all that threatened.
3. This one came with Jose Calderon starting in place of injured point guard George Hill. All Calderon did was make the Raptors wish Hill had played.
4. Calderon scored a season-high 19 points and ran the team to near-perfection while facing Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry.
5. And to think I once wondered why general manager Koby Altman and the Cavs bothered to sign Calderon in the offseason. At the time, it seemed like signing a player just to sign one.
6. Boy, was I wrong. Big shock there, huh? But seriously. Calderon has been everything a contending team seeks in a backup. He doesn’t complain when he sits and makes shots and produces when he plays. That, folks, is a veteran and a winner.
7. Calderon on his role: “I feel great. I feel really comfortable. I know what they want me to do.”
8. Calderon connected on seven of his 11 field-goal attempts and finished the night with a whopping plus-27. That means when Calderon was on the floor, the Cavs dominated as they have few times this season. And they did it against the East’s top team.
9. But these are two teams headed in opposite directions, with the most important time of year looming. The Cavs (48-30) have won nine of 10 without all their parts. The Raptors (55-22) have lost five of eight.
10. As usual, LeBron James put on a real show in an important game, leading the way with 27 points. After one particularly stylish layup, James thumped his chest, turned toward the Toronto bench and declared, “I’m still a problem.”
11. That moment pretty much defined James and the Cavs vs. the Raptors. Of course, James toned it down and took a professional, realistic approach in the post-game locker room.
12. LeBron on the state of things: “We don’t know what we can become. We have no idea. But right now we’re playing good ball and we want to try to continue that. But we don’t know what we can become. We have not been whole all year.”
13. Another reason for the Raptors to worry? Kevin Love, who collected a dominating double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds despite feeling under the weather. James is indeed still a problem for the Raptors, and Love has become a real issue for them, too.
14. Meanwhile, Cavs sharpshooter Kyle Korver played for the first time since March 19. He left the team following the death of his 27-year-old brother. He has also been hampered by a sore foot. Korver scored three points and grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes.
15. Rodney Hood (17 points) and Jeff Green (12) also gave underrated showings. Hood, it seems, has become a LeBron favorite.
16. According to several sources, James has indicated he believes Hood will be a big-time player for the Cavs in the playoffs, as well as for years to come.
17. If nothing else, that would mean free-agent-to-be LeBron is at least talking excitedly about the Cavs’ future in private.
18. But free agency doesn’t start until July. With the way the Cavs have been playing lately, they can afford not to worry about it until July gets a lot closer.
19. As for the Raptors, Lowry was a miserable 2-of-11 shooting one night after watching Villanova, his alma mater, win the national championship over Michigan in San Antonio. Lowry defended his decision to attend the NCAA title game.
20. Lowry on that very subject: “I just missed shots. I got back in time. I didn’t miss nothing. I just missed some shots.”
21. At any rate, it’s pretty clear the Cavs have Lowry and the Raptors feeling a bit frustrated, and perhaps a bit nervous entering the postseason.
22. Oh, and the Cavs still don’t have head coach Tyronn Lue, who remains out after taking some time away with health concerns. With four regular-season games left, there is still no firm timetable on a Lue return.
23. Final word from acting Cavs coach Larry Drew: “I still say we’re only scratching the surface. … We recognize the fact that we have to be on the same page defensively, particularly in the playoffs. But I still think we’re scratching the surface. There’s room for improvement in a lot of areas.”