Updated at: 02/27/2013 10:38 PM
By TOM WITHERS
(AP) CLEVELAND - Rookie Dion Waiters scored 23 points, Shaun Livingston added 15 and the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a horrendous start and playing without injured All-Star Kyrie Irving for the second straight game, beating the Toronto Raptors 103-92 on Wednesday night.
The Cavs made only one of their first 15 shots, but recovered and finished February at 7-5, their first winning month since March 2010, when LeBron James was still around.
Tristan Thompson scored 14, Wayne Ellington added 13 and Luke Walton had seven rebounds and seven assists for the Cavs, who closed with a 10-2 run.
DeMar DeRozan scored 34 and Rudy Gay had 24 for the Raptors. Toronto was within three at 93-90 when Waiters hit a 15-foot jumper with 1:43 left.
Irving sat out with a hyperextended right knee, an injury he sustained in practice.
It was Cleveland’s second win in a row without Irving, whose knee is still sore and the Cavs are being extra cautious with their dazzling 20-year-old.
But he isn’t the only rising star in Cleveland. Waiters, forced to be more aggressive with Irving on the bench, scored 25 in Tuesday’s win at Chicago and has 71 points in his past three games. Thompson, another of the young-and-improving Cavs, added eight rebounds and made all six free throws.
After trailing by 11, the Raptors got within 73-71 on DeRozan’s jumper.
But Thompson scored six straight points inside and the Cavs reeled off seven consecutive to end the third. Cleveland made its first 20 free throws before Waiters split a pair with 1.7 seconds left, giving Cleveland an 80-71 lead entering the fourth. A 6-0 burst pushed Cleveland’s lead to 86-71, but the Raptors, fighting to stay in the playoff race, weren’t finished.
Gay’s dunk made it 93-90, but Waiters showed no fear in stepping up and dropping his big jumper. On Cleveland’s next possession, Livingston fired a no-look pass to Alonzo Gee for a dunk, and after DeRozan scored, the Cavs put the game away by making six straight free throws in the final two minutes.
The win was another sign of growth in the Cavs, who went 3-12 in November and 3-13 in December.
The Raptors lost for the first time in four road games since acquiring Gay in a trade from Memphis.
The Cavs were beyond awful in the opening minutes, shooting (6.7 percent) from the field and allowing the Raptors to run out to an early 21-7 lead.
Gay dropped a 3-pointer during a 16-2 run for Toronto, and in the initial moments of a timeout, Cleveland coach Byron Scott looked at his players as if to say, "`Hey, guys, put the ball in the hoop.’"
Cleveland’s players finally began finding their range and used an 11-4 spurt to pull within 25-20 heading into the second quarter. Considering their atrocious start, it was incredible the Cavs weren’t further down.
They really heated up in the second quarter, shooting 71.4 percent (15 of 21) and outscoring the Raptors 37-23 to take a 57-48 lead.
NOTES: Former Cavs majority owner Gordon Gund visited with current owner Dan Gilbert and former center Zydrunas Ilgauskas before the game outside Cleveland’s locker room. Gund, who is blind, is in Cleveland for meetings for a foundation that raises money and awareness to fight diseases that cause blindness. "We’re now delivering treatments and cures," Gund said. "That’s the major reason I sold it (the team) when I did. I wanted to see it through. That’s my passion now." ... Cavs G Daniel Gibson was active after missing three games to attend to a personal matter. He did not play on his 27th birthday. ... Raptors starting G Kyle Lowry injured his finger late in the third quarter but returned. ... Gay smashed a two-handed, highlight-worthy dunk off a rebound in the second quarter. He punctuated the stunning jam by letting loose with a primal scream. ... The Raptors play four of their next five on the road.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)