The Cleveland Cavaliers hope to work on their first win in the post-LeBron James-era when they head north of the border to take on the rebuilding Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.
The Cavs, led by new head coach Byron Scott, stunned the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics on Wednesday when J.J. Hickson went 8-of-11 from the field for 21 points, leading Cleveland to a 95-87 victory over the C’s at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavs, playing for the first time since 2002 without two-time MVP James on the roster, were able to do something that James’ new team — the Heat — could not do a night earlier. While James and Co. lost in Boston on opening night Tuesday, Cleveland was able to secure a victory without its former superstar.
“We had a couple lapses, which usually happens in games. But we had a great coaching job — we called timeouts when we needed it — and we got together as a group and just played good basketball,” Hickson said.
The hosts had six players reach double figures in scoring, including Daniel Gibson with 16 and Ramon Sessions with 14. Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Ryan Hollins each had 10 points, while Anderson Varejao provided eight points and 10 rebounds.
Cleveland earned the win without starting point guard Mo Williams, who missed most of the preseason with a groin problem and was held out of the opener due to conditioning concerns. He is questionable for tonight’s contest.
In other team news Varejao was excused from traveling with the team to Toronto so he can be with his father during heart surgery.
The Raptors, meanwhile, fell in their first game without All-Star forward Chris Bosh, who signed to play with James in Miami during the offseason.
Amare Stoudemire scored seven of his 19 points in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, as the New York Knicks took down Toronto, 98-93, in the season opener for both teams at Air Canada Centre.
Andrea Bargnani had 22 points and six rebounds to pace the Raptors, who not only lost Bosh but fellow star forward Hedo Turkoglu, who was sent to Phoenix in the offseason for Leandro Barbosa.
Barbosa ended with 13 points off the bench against the Knicks, while free agent pickup Linas Kleiza added 13 points and five boards. Guard Jarrett Jack contributed 16 points and six assists.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do but we had some good moments,” Kleiza said. “We just couldn’t make some shots at the end, we made some bad decisions on the offensive end and we’ve got to play more together.”
Cleveland took three of four games with Toronto last season and has won eight of nine overall in the series.