Fans of the Raptors are either elated that their team is tied in a series against the East’s top dog, or a little apprehensive because of Toronto nearly collapsing in the second half of Game 4. Not to discredit the Toronto’s effort, but they had a chance to step on the Cavs’ throat coming out of the half and failing to do so resulted in a much closer game. After extracting their 105-99 win, the series heads back over to Cleveland for Game 5.
One of the big reasons the Raptors were able to gain an edge over the Cavaliers was because Cleveland just couldn’t hit anything in the first half. Toronto played solid defense in the first quarter, but it wasn’t stifling, and Kevin Love and J.R. Smith bailed out the Raptors by combining to shoot 2/11 from three. Another oddity was LeBron James was clearly more passive and attempted just two shots in the frame — he hit both, finishing with six points. Toronto had better execution on offense and shot 52% to score 27. DeMar DeRozan and DeMarre Carroll led with six and seven points, respectively, and helped the Raptors keep a three-point lead.
The Cavs had no adjustment for Kyle Lowry in the second quarter, and he erupted. After being historically bad through most of the playoffs, Lowry had 13 points in this second quarter while going 3/4 from downtown to help the Raptors take a 30-17 advantage. The Cavaliers’ offensive woes were still haunting them, and outside of James, Cleveland shot 3/11 from the field. James was noticeably more aggressive, taking seven shots in the frame and only settling for two threes — he finished with ten points. At the end of the first half, the Cavs trailed 57-41 and only managed to shoot 39% from the field compared to 56% for the Raptors; the Cavaliers who weren’t James and Irving shot just 23%.
The contest was flipped on its head once the third quarter started. DeRozan and Lowry — much like James and Irving — were the only Raptors seeing success on the offensive end, and they combined for 16 of their squad’s 21 points. Toronto shot 7/18 (39%) in the quarter, and the duo mentioned previous made all seven field goals. Tyronn Lue elected to leave his starters out for the entire third, and it worked. Their offense ran through Irving for a majority of the quarter and he was cold-blooded, scoring 12 on 5/8 shooting. Smith shook his inefficiencies from the first half and hit two of his three attempts from behind the arc. Cleveland had cut the lead to nine entering the fourth.
Just when it looked like the Cavs had some momentum, the all-star backcourt from Toronto put the team on their shoulders and dueled Cleveland almost single-handedly. Of their 27 points in the period, DeRozan had 12 and Lowry had nine. The two were wildly productive and made eight shots in 11 attempts. With no Kevin Love because of an ankle tweak, Channing Frye stepped up and hit some big threes for the Cavs. He was able to pull Biyombo away from the basket and contributed nine points and five rebounds. Richard Jefferson was left in for the whole fourth quarter and was a perfect four-of-four from the field. James did his best to duel DeRozan and finished with eight points.
DeMar and Lowry totaled 67 of the Raptors’ points, with Lowry’s 35 being the game-high. Biyombo provided invaluable energy and anchored the defense with three blocks, and dominated the glass with 14 rebounds. James had 26 points on 11/16 shooting while playing 46 minutes, and Irving wasn’t far behind with 26.
It’s worth noting that Jonas Valanciunas was active for the game after missing time with an ankle sprain but didn’t play.
Game 5 is Wednesday, March 25 at 8:30 PM EST in Cleveland.