CLEVELAND -- Up by as many as 21 points in the third quarter, the Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves in a second-half fight against the Toronto Raptors as both teams were battling for playoff positioning at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday.
Despite being outscored by seven points in the third quarter and watching their lead turn into a deficit when Greivis Vasquez buried a three-pointer for the Raptors (39-31) more than six minutes to play in the game, the Cavaliers (28-44) fought for and earned a 102-100 win over the Atlantic Division leaders.
"It was a good win by our guys," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "That's a playoff team. They were playing good basketball, and we already lost two games to them. Two games that I thought we had a chance to win.
"For us to find a way to stay competitive and get the win was big. A game like that earlier in the season, we might have lost, especially coming down the stretch when a team makes a run against us. Our guys just found a way to win and they stayed competitive, especially defensively when the game became a three to five-point ball game with six, seven minutes left."
The Cavaliers let the Raptors back into the game by struggling to defend the perimeter.
Toronto converted 14 of its 32 three-point attempts in the game, and were consistent from long-range throughout the contest.
"We've got to keep working on us playing 48 minutes," forward Luol Deng said. "I don't think we're there yet, and I don't like saying that because it's been such a long season, but the challenge of being a good team and taking it to the next level and being a great team is really how much out of the 48 minutes can you be consistent.
"Whether it's at the end of the game or in the second half, like in New York where we showed how good we could be, or in the first half, we've got to put that together for 48 minutes, or close to it."
Unlike the past five games, the Cavaliers got off to a fast start.
Despite a Dion Waiters turnover and a three-pointer from Raptors reserve guard John Salmons with 3.8 seconds left, the Cavaliers held a 26-17 lead over Toronto after the first quarter of play.
The Cavaliers led by as many as 14 points when Waiters split a pair of free throws with 1:28 to play in the first quarter. The Cavaliers owned the key, as they outscored the Raptors, 16-8, in the paint and scored five off of the fast break. As a whole, Cleveland shot 52.2 percent from the floor.
The Cavaliers built their advantage to as many as 18 points on two occasions in the second period. They went up by 18 points when Tyler Zeller made the first of two free-throw attempts, and again, when reserve forward Alonzo Gee hit a running jumper from eight feet out with 5:53 to play in the first half.
Although the Cavaliers held the Raptors to 16-of-44 shooting (36.4 percent), Toronto converted eight of their 16 three-point attempts in the first half.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Waiters said. "We just stayed with it. We didn't get rattled. We made plays when we needed to.
"We moved the ball. We ran the floor. That was the biggest thing, pushing it, making the easy play, kicking it ahead, getting a rebound and playing with each other."