Posted on May 24, 2016 by Travis Pulver
In Game One and Two of the Eastern Conference Finals, fans saw what they expected. The Cleveland Cavaliers had no trouble notching a pair of wins at home to take a 2-0 series lead before the series moved north of the border.
Some believed the Raptors would be able to pull one win out against Cleveland, but they would just serve as a warm-up for the Cavaliers before the NBA Finals. They would certainly not win two games and turn this into a competitive series.
But they did.
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Toronto fans got to see their two stars have their best game of the postseason as they led the Raptors to a surprising 105-99 win over Cleveland to tie the series at 2-2. Kyle Lowry and DeMa DeRozan had good nights from the floor. Lowry hit 70 percent of his shots from the floor (14-20) for a team-high 35 points. DeRozan hit 14 of 23 for 32.
“We’ve been counted out, and we like that challenge,” DeRozan said.
“We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back,” Lowry said. “And if they punch three times, we punch four times.”
They didn’t do it alone of course. Bismack Biyombo had another good night on the glass with 14 rebounds, five points, and three blocks. Jonas Valanciunas was active for the first time since May 3, but with the ay Biyombo was playing, there was no need to rush him back into the lineup.
Toronto got out to an 18-point lead early in the second half but saw the Cavaliers roar back to cut the gap to nine points at the end of the third, 78-69. Cleveland took a lead early in the final period after making their first 11 shots, but then the Raptors stars turned it on down the stretch to secure the win.
Lowry had nine of his 35 points in the final period and DeRozan 12 of his 32.
“It’s a cake walk for me once he gets going,” DeRozan said. “It opens up everything for me on the floor. Teams try to focus in on him, and he knows when to get me going. He got the ball, he’s our point guard, he’s our leader of this team, and he knows how to orchestrate what needs to be done out there.”
LeBron James had another good night with 29 points, and Kyrie Irving chipped in 26, but otherwise the Cavs had no answer for the Raptors defensive pressure. Kevin Love was a dismal 4-14 before leaving in the fourth quarter with an injury and the team threw up a ton of bricks once again from behind the arc (13-41).
After the game, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue gave credit where it was due.
“We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can’t have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs,” Lue said. “They executed every time we made a mistake.”
Before the game, the talk centered around LeBron James saying he was going to pay Dahntay Jones’ $80 fine for his punch to Biyombo’s groin in Game Three. However, after two losses to a team most expected the Cavs to breeze by, the talk is no longer going to be about anything trivial.
It will be about whether it is time to start wondering if we could have a surprise representative from the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.