CLEVELAND -- After allowing a season-high 79 points in the first half and trailing the Toronto Raptors by 15 at intermission on Wednesday night, the Cavaliers stormed back to win 132-129. The game left acting head coach Larry Drew believing he witnessed a breakthrough performance.
"I always say there is one game during the season that changes your team," Drew said. "That game can be early, it can be midway, it can be late. There's always one game that kind of changes your team, the mindset. And I really believe tonight's game might have done that for us."
It might be too late for Cleveland, No. 3 in the Eastern Conference, to catch the East-leading Raptors in the standings; the Cavs have to go 11-0 the rest of the way while Toronto would have to go 0-10 for that to happen. But it's not too late to build some positive momentum before the postseason.
"Turn around the season? We only got like 11 games left," LeBron James said when informed of Drew's declaration. "The season is almost over. So we want to continue just to work [on] our habits, and we'll see what happens."
What has been happening for James lately has been nothing short of historic. Seemingly on a nightly basis, he does something that sets him apart in the annals of the game.
With a final stat line of 35 points, 17 assists and zero turnovers Wednesday night, he became the first player with 35-plus points, 15-plus assists and zero turnovers since the NBA started recording turnovers in 1977-78, according to the Elias Sports Bureau research.
When asked what he was more pleased with, the 17 assists or the zero turnovers, James chose the latter.
"The no turnovers, for sure," James said. "If you don't turn the ball over, it doesn't allow teams to get in transition versus our set defense. It gives us extra possessions, extra shots at the basket. So no turnovers, just taking care of the basketball, is good for me."
Over his past 19 games, dating back to Feb. 7, James is averaging a triple-double with 30.5 points on 55 percent shooting (40.6 percent from 3-point territory), 10.4 rebounds and 10.5 assists.
The 80 total points he scored or assisted on against Toronto was the second-highest total he has ever accounted for in the 1,349 games he has played in the regular season and playoffs combined, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
But he insisted he wasn't trying to send a message to the Raptors about what they could expect if they face the Cavs in the playoffs.
"It's a good win for us because of how depleted we are on our roster and everything that's been going on," James said. "It's a good win for us against a very good opponent. But I don't need to remind anybody about what my teams are capable of doing. So that wasn't a factor."
However, there were legitimate mitigating factors affecting both teams. The Cavs were missing five rotation players: Larry Nance Jr. (hamstring), Rodney Hood (back), Cedi Osman (hip), Tristan Thompson (ankle) and Kyle Korver, who is away from the team as he grieves the death of his younger brother Kirk. The Raptors were playing on the road on the second night of a back-to-back for their 10th game in the past 16 days; they were without their leading bench scorer, CJ Miles, who was out with the flu.
The comeback nature of Cleveland's win undeniably got Toronto's attention, though.
"They're still a hell of a team; you can't take anything away from them," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said. "They're still a top team in our conference and in this league. You can't overlook 'em or underlook 'em -- no type of way, no matter what type of changes they make."
Despite the changes, one thing seems to always stay the same: James.
"I've never seen anything like it, to be perfectly honest with you," Drew said of James. "I mean, 17 assists. What'd he have, 35 points and no turnovers? It's just amazing at what he does, night in and night out. How he sustains it is just mind-boggling. And he's just one of those guys. First of all, he is so driven to win and to be the best. What he brings for us, I mean it's just -- you can't describe it. But he is the guy we know that we go through and depend on a lot, and we need him to bring the other guys along, which he has done.
"It just seems like every night, every night the things that he [does], I sit over there and I just kind of shake my head. I'm just glad that I'm coaching him."