The Cleveland Cavaliers made the first 11 shots they took in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors. In doing so, they quickly erased the nine-point deficit they faced to start the quarter. It seemed like the Cavaliers were simply going to overpower the Raptors, who had led by as many as 18 in the first half, but Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were having none of it.
After the Cavaliers pulled to within one with 10:16 to play, Lowry and DeRozan combined to score 21 of the Raptors' final 27 points as Toronto went toe-to-toe with Cleveland down the stretch to pull out a critical Game 4 win, 105-99, to even the series at 2-2.
Lowry had nine in the fourth and 35 in the game, and DeRozan scored 12 in the fourth on his way to 32 points. The Raptors have turned the tide in this series after getting run out of the gym in the first two games. While Bismack Biyombo has been a revelation for Toronto in Games 3 and 4, the two All-Stars' return to form has sparked the Raptors -- and they're the reason they're two wins away from an improbable trip to the NBA Finals.
With the good versions of Lowry and DeRozan on the court, the Raptors now have a shot to stun the Cavaliers. In the Raptors' first round series against the Pacers, Lowry and DeRozan combined to finish with more shots than points over the seven games -- they scored 222 points on 236 shots. In Game 4, they combined for 67 points on 43 shots (h/t Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star), even with DeRozan going 0-for-1 from three.
They couldn't buy a bucket in the first two games of this series, either, but their confidence is rolling now.
Not only are they confident, they're resilient. After coughing up a double-digit lead and falling behind a LeBron James-led team in the fourth, the Raptors showed no quit. They stiffened up on defense and let Lowry and DeRozan attack offensively. They sliced through the Cavaliers' defense and were patient in finding their spots. Instead of panicking, Lowry and DeRozan calmly took control of the game.
After making their first 11 shots of the quarter -- and it should be noted that the Raptors hung with the Cavaliers during that stretch, never trailing by more than three when Cleveland couldn't miss -- the Cavaliers were only 1-of-10 in the final 4:12.
Lowry and DeRozan led the Raptors to the biggest win in franchise history, but now they have to find a way to do it in Cleveland. If Lowry and DeRozan can combine for 60 or more again, they're going to have a great shot.
Plus, they have tightened up the defense after miserable performances in Games 1 and 2. By not focusing completely on the three-point shot defensively, the Raptors have found a way to slow the Cavaliers, who were only 13-of-41 from behind the arc.
With a defense that's contending and the two stars back to their normal selves, there's reason for the Raptors to believe.
2 other things
Kevin Love's struggles are holding back the Cavaliers
Love rolled his ankle after it appeared he stepped on a referee's foot and sat out the fourth quarter. Before that, however, he wasn't of much help. He followed up his miserable Game 3 performance by going 4-of-14 from the field and 2-of-7 from deep for 10 points. Plus, he was back to his old ways defensively. After playing some of the best defense of his career in the first 10 games of the playoffs, he was a problem off the ball and against screens on Monday. LeBron James had 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Kyrie Irving added 26, but the other cog in Cleveland's Big Three was non-existent. Channing Frye was spectacular off the bench with his three-point shooting, but the Cavaliers need Love to return to form if they're going to avoid the shocking upset.
The Raptors are not letting the Cavaliers beat them with the 3-point shot
In a playoffs full of swings that didn't seem possible (see: every time the Oklahoma City Thunder bounce back from a blowout), the Raptors have shocked us all by halting the Cavaliers' 10-game playoff winning streak with two straight wins. It seems like they've found a way to hang with Cleveland.
They have aborted the defensive game plan of stopping the three at all costs and are instead hoping the Cavaliers can't continue to shoot lights out. It worked in the first half of Game 4 -- the Cavaliers went a miserable 3-of-22 from deep. The Cavaliers were better in the second half, going 10-of-19 from deep, but the damage had already been done. The 16-point deficit was too much, and they ended up missing seven of eight threes in the final 4:12. The Cavaliers shot 41 threes in the first two games -- they've shot 41 in each of the past two games. And they've only made 27. After hitting at a record rate through the first two rounds, the Cavaliers have finally cooled off -- and the Raptors are taking advantage.
Play of the night
Bismack Biyombo continues to be a difference maker. Kevin Love belongs to Canada now.
3 fun things
Bismack Biyombo stuffed LeBron James at the rim, too. He was whistled for a foul, though.
Raptors fans thought the refs were screwing them, so they cheered sarcastically when they finally got a foul called in their favor.
Drake had an eventful game from the sideline.
Raptors 105, Cavaliers 99 (SB Nation recap | Raptors HQ recap | Fear the Sword recap)
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