Coach Dwane Casey made a point to remind everyone that “no one believed” in his team’s chances in a series against the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Toronto Raptors certainly established themselves at this point with another impressive effort and eventual home victory in Game 4.
Although starting center Jonas Valanciunas was technically available for action, reserve big man Bismack Biyombo continued where he left off from Game 3 at the start of Game 4 for the Raptors. Biyombo had four quick points – including a pull-up jumper from just inside the arc – and four rebounds in the early going, helping the Raptors run out to a 15-7 lead over the visiting Cavaliers.
Kevin Love’s corner three and two strong drives by LeBron James helped pull Cleveland back to within range with just under three minutes left in the opening quarter, but a three from the top of the arc by Patrick Patterson and a nice drive and finish by Corey Joseph helped the Raptors take a 27-24 lead into the second quarter.
Joseph’s driving layup with 9:35 left in the second gave the Raptors a seven-point lead, but Kyrie Irving immediately responded with a drive and finish of his own. This brought it to just a 31-26 lead for Toronto. Cleveland had been one of the hottest teams of the postseason from deep, but started just 3-21 from beyond the arc in Game 4 even though many of the looks were open. A steal by Terrence Ross and outlet to Patterson for the dunk in transition gave the Raptors a 35-28 advantage, and then Kyle Lowry’s three-pointer gave Toronto its first double-digit lead of the game.
Lowry’s second three of the game gave the Raptors a 42-31 lead and the 10th-year point guard finally appeared to have located his confidence after struggling from the field for much of the postseason. His find of Patterson along the baseline for the layup gave Toronto a 48-35 lead and caused the Cavs to call another timeout to regroup with 4:33 left in the second. Lowry ended up with 20 points on 8-11 from the field (4-6 from deep) and added three assists and four rebounds in the first half. Toronto took a 57-41 lead into the break.
Irving finally broke the seal from beyond the arc for the Cavaliers with consecutive three pointers early in the third quarter. This was followed by one from J.R. Smith and Cleveland pulled to within seven (59-52). Biyombo’s back-to-back blocks of Love and Tristan Thompson and consecutive drives from DeMar DeRozan (eight points in the quarter) seemed to ignite the crowd once again and regain a bit of momentum for the Raptors. Lowry also followed with two more buckets and helped Toronto take a 15-point lead into a timeout with just under four minutes left in the third.
After starting the game 3-22 from deep, Cleveland was 6-8 from beyond the arc in the third quarter alone. Irving’s jumper brought the Cavaliers to within nine points heading into the fourth quarter as the Raptors led 78-69. Channing Frye actually made it a four-point game early in the fourth with yet another three. Frye followed that up with another make from deep after a Lowry offensive foul and brought the Cavaliers to within 78-77 before Coach Casey decided a timeout was necessary.
Lowry’s back-cut and finish for the three-point play out of the timeout helped push the lead back to 81-77, but Frye hit another three from the corner in response. James’ driving layup with just over eight minutes left gave the Cavaliers a lead for the first time in the game. Lowry continued his assertive play right when the Raptors needed it as his driving layup over James (eventually a three-point play) tied the game at 92. After trading baskets for a few possessions, Toronto was able to take a 100-96 lead with 2:43 left on a Lowry free throw. In the end, while Cleveland put up an admirable fight in the second half, the Raptors made just enough plays down the stretch to take Game 4 by a final score of 105-99 and tie the best-of-seven series at 2-2 as the teams head back to Cleveland for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Lowry was absolutely tremendous (35 points, five assists, five rebounds, three steals) and DeRozan was strong (32 points, three assists, three rebounds) once again for Toronto. Biyombo also swiped another 14 rebounds while swatting three shots and influencing several others in support.
Game 5 Prediction: Cleveland responds with another strong effort at Quicken Loans Arena, forcing the Raptors to respond with their collective backs against the wall once again.
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