CLEVELAND The NBA has never seen anything like these Cleveland Cavaliers.
On a night when their top two players set franchise records, the Cavs broke a league mark with a 114-94 romp over the Toronto Raptors last night.
LeBron James scored 31 points and became Cleveland s career steals leader and Zydrunas Ilgauskas moved atop the Cavaliers rebounding chart as Cleveland improved to 12-0 at home with its latest rout.
In winning their ninth straight by at least 12 points, the Cavaliers, now 17-1 since Nov. 3, are the first team in league history to win nine consecutive games in a single season so handily. Cleveland came in tied with Portland (1990-91), Chicago (1996-97), Detroit (2003-04) and Houston (2007-08).
Nine wins. Nine routs.
That s unbelievable, James said. Knowing the history of some of the great teams, the Chicago Bulls team that went 72-10, the Celtics teams, the Lakers teams and the Pistons teams, it s unbelievable for our franchise to accomplish something like that.
And the way they re playing, it doesn t look like the Cavs have any intention of slowing down. They ve won the nine games in their streak by an average of 21.5 points.
We treat everybody the same, Ilgauskas said. We respect everybody but we fear nobody.
James hit a 3-pointer at the halftime horn as the Cavs, who were assessed three technicals in the second quarter, went to the locker room leading only 59-51.
It was still a game then it wasn t.
Cleveland opened the third quarter with a 23-2 run, highlighted by two breakaway dunks from James, who threw one down left-handed in the first half and added some style points by posing with his left hand behind on his neck on another right-handed smash in the third quarter.
In the opening minute, James passed Mark Price (734) for the club s steals mark. He added five rebounds, four assists and three steals in just 30 minutes. The superstar sat out the fourth quarter for the sixth time in seven games, rest that will only help him later this season and into the postseason.
We re on the list of teams where LeBron doesn t even have to play in the fourth quarter, Raptors interim coach Jay Triano said. They re running teams out.
Ilgauskas had 13 points and surpassed Brad Daugherty (5,227) as Cleveland s career rebound leader when he picked up a loose ball with 2:01 left before halftime.
About the only glitch for Cleveland was an injury to guard Daniel Gibson, who sprained his left big toe in the second quarter and didn t return. Gibson did not travel with the club to Philadelphia but may rejoin the Cavs after being re-evaluated today.
Joey Graham scored 17 points, Jose Calderon 14 and Chris Bosh tied a season low with nine 16 below his average for the Raptors, who have lost five in a row and three straight since coach Sam Mitchell was fired last week.
Bosh, who won a gold medal with James this summer in China, noticed James and his teammates dancing near their bench during a timeout in the fourth quarter.
I d be having a good time too if I was 18-3, Bosh said, laughing.
It was fitting that James and Ilgauskas made history together.
Like the Price-Daugherty tandem before them, the James-Ilgauskas duo has been at the forefront of Cleveland s NBA resurgence.When the Cavaliers beat Detroit to win their first Eastern Conference title in 2007, James rushed across the floor to embrace Ilgauskas, a 7-foot-3 gentle giant who overcame numerous foot injuries earlier in his career to become one of the league s steadiest big men.
Last week, James predicted Ilgauskas No. 11 jersey will hang one day from the rafters at Quicken Loans Arena. Perhaps alongside James No. 23 .
It means a lot, James said of his steals record. But it means a lot more for me what Z did than what I did. To know what he s been through early in his career with the foot injuries and then going from losing season to losing season and people saying he was on his way out. To put his name in the record books is unbelievable to see.
It s been a long road, said Ilgauskas, who received a huge ovation with James. I cherish it.