Though Kyrie Irving has played a major role in the Cleveland Cavaliers' improvement over the second half of this season, the team is proving it can also win without him.
With their All-Star point guard sidelined for a second straight night by a knee injury, the Cavaliers posted their second consecutive triumph by earning a 103-92 decision over the Toronto Raptors at Quicken Loans Arena.
Six Cleveland players scored in double figures to help offset Irving's absence, with Dion Waiters leading the charge with a 23-point, six-assist effort.
"He understands what he has to do when Kyrie is not there, because we asked him to do a little bit more with the ball," Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott said of Waiters. "Over the last few games, he's done a good job."
Shaun Livingston added 15 points and six helpers for the Cavs, while Tristan Thompson contributed 14 points and eight rebounds to Cleveland's fourth victory in its last five games.
The Raptors dropped their second in a row despite a 34-point performance from DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay's 24 points and eight rebounds.
Cleveland overcame a horrendous start, during which Toronto opened up a 23-9 lead late in the first quarter. The Cavs closed out the period on an 11-2 run before getting red-hot in the second to build a double-digit cushion of their own.
Down by seven early in the session, Cleveland outscored the Raptors by a 20-7 count over the next 4 1/2 minutes to claim a 42-36 advantage. The Cavs hit on 9-of-10 field goal attempts during the tear, with three of the makes coming from 3-point range.
"We did a real good job of getting ourselves back into the game," said Scott.
Cleveland kept on knocking down shots, and its lead grew to 11 on Thompson's dunk off a Toronto turnover with 45.9 seconds left in the half. The Cavaliers would go into the break up 57-48 after Gay put back a Kyle Lowry miss on the ensuing possession.
The Cavs shot a blistering 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from the field in the second quarter, with Waiters dropping in 11 points to spark the surge.
"The second quarter killed us," said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. "We decided to play defensive in the second half and it's too late. You give up a 37-point quarter and with what we are playing for, it's just too many points."
Toronto would chip away at its deficit via a 9-2 third-quarter run keyed by DeRozan, whose two free throws following Gay's layup closed the gap to 65-63 nearing the midway mark of the frame. However, the Cavaliers recorded the next 13 points spanning the end of the third period and the initial stages of the fourth to begin to pull away.
Thompson accounted for the first six points of the burst and Livingston had the final four, the last a reverse dunk that staked Cleveland to an 86-71 lead with just under nine minutes left.
Toronto answered with a 9-0 flurry, then later pulled within 93-90 on Gay's second-chance slam with 1:55 to go. Waiters connected on the other end, though, to ignite a 10-2 sequence that put the game away.
Livingston, who started in place of Irving, matched season bests in both points and assists ... Toronto had won in each of its last four visits to Quicken Loans Arena and lost for the first time in four road outings since acquiring Gay from Memphis in late January ... The Cavaliers improved to 4-14 in the second of back-to-back games this season ... Guard Sebastian Telfair, acquired by Toronto from Phoenix at last week's trade deadline, made his Raptors' debut and went scoreless in just seven minutes.