TORONTO – Kyle Lowry had a big smile after capping off a career night by hitting the clinching basket in the closing seconds.
Lowry finished with a career-best 43 points to help the Toronto Raptors beat the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers 99-97 Friday night.
“My first game winner in my illustrious 10-year career,” he said, noting that he was at Villanova that last time he’d done that.
Terrence Ross added 15 for Toronto, which won its 10th straight at home to tie a franchise record previously set between March 24 and Nov. 4, 2002.
LeBron James, who scored 25, had a chance to win the game with a late 3-pointer, but his shot missed the rim completely as time expired.
Kevin Love added 20 for the Cavaliers, who had their lead over Atlantic Division-leading Toronto in the East cut to two games, and conceded the playoff seeding tie-breaker to Toronto, with the Raptors clinching the season series 2-1.
Lowry played down his individual effort though, which bettered the 41 he put up against Golden State on Dec. 5.
“The bigger deal is that we won the game, that’s all that matters,” he said. “I think we grew tonight but we’ve got the team to get better. Now we’ve put our efforts into Detroit and worry about Detroit.”
Lowry’s 15-for-20 performance also helped make up for an ineffective night from the team’s top scorer, DeMar DeRozan, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms and was held to a season-low six points.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey had insisted all day that this top-two matchup was just another game, and not a possible playoff preview, and he refused to change his tune following the victory.
“Again, it is just one game,” he said. “If we come back and stub our toe on Sunday (against the Pistons) what does it mean? Nothing, zero, it is one of 82.”
In the Cleveland dressing room, Love disagreed about the importance of the game.
“Anybody who says it wasn’t is lying to you,” he said when asked if it was a big game, particularly with the playoff tiebreaker on the line. “We knew coming in it was going to be a hostile environment away from home, they’re a very good team and had won nine in a row (at home) before tonight so we knew they were going to be tough to beat and it was no different.”
Hawks 103, Bulls 88
In Atlanta, Jeff Teague scored 19 points, Al Horford added 18 and the Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak with a victory over short-handed Chicago.
Paul Millsap had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Atlanta, which ended a four-game home skid — its longest since April 2007. The Hawks moved into fifth place in the East.
Doug McDermott finished with 20 points and Paul Gasol had 16 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls.
Hornets 96, Pacers 95
In Indianapolis, Kemba Walker scored 22 points and hit the game-winning shot with 2.4 seconds left to lift Charlotte over Indiana.
Monta Ellis gave the Pacers the lead with a layup over Walker with 16.2 seconds to go. Walker then split two defenders above the 3-point line to get to the rim and sank a left-handed scoop shot over Paul George.
Indiana had a chance at the buzzer, but George’s shot from the top of the key missed. George finished with 32 points.
Marvin Williams had 26 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets.
Mavericks 122, Nuggets 116 (OT)
In Denver, Raymond Felton tied the score late in regulation and then had eight of his 16 points in overtime as Dallas rallied from 23 points down to beat the Nuggets.
Dirk Nowitzki had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Mavericks. David Lee, playing his second game for Dallas, had 14 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes.
Will Barton led Denver with 22 points. Kenneth Faried had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and D.J. Augustin also scored 20 points.
Wizards 103, 76ers 94
In Philadelphia, John Wall had 23 points and 11 assists to lead Washington past the hosts.
Jared Dudley scored 14 points and Ramon Sessions added 12 for the Wizards. Wall finished two rebounds short of a triple-double.
Jahlil Okafor scored 21 points for the 76ers (8-50), who lost their seventh straight.
Knicks 108, Magic 95
In New York, Carmelo Anthony had 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, and the Knicks quickly jumped on an Orlando team that appeared to still be staggered by Stephen Curry.
A night after yielding 51 points and 10 3-pointers to Curry in a 130-114 loss to Golden State, the Magic were barely in the game after the first 10 minutes.
Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points for the Knicks, who won for only the third time in 16 games.
Nikola Vucevic scored 18 for Orlando and Aaron Gordon had 17 points and eight rebounds.
Clippers 117, Kings 107
In Sacramento, Chris Paul scored a season-high 40 points and added 13 assists with eight rebounds to propel Los Angeles past the Kings.
Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
Grizzlies 112, Lakers 95
In Los Angeles, Vince Carter scored a season-high 19 points and five of his teammates also reached double figures to help Memphis cruise past the Lakers.
Carter made his first five shots — all 3-pointers during a 7:48 span — and finished 7-for-10 from the field in 20 minutes to help the Grizzlies win for the 13th time in 17 games.
Kobe Bryant sat out because of a sore right shoulder as the Lakers lost their eighth straight and 22nd in 25 games.