30 for 30: Raptors stars even series with Cavs

TORONTO – The L-Train that is LeBron James could not be stopped this post-season but Kyle Lowry thought ahead and let the train hit him.

Instead of a patented chase-down block in the fourth quarter Lowry executed the classic two-foot jump stop, took the foul and went to the line. The smart play proved to be the right one for a Toronto team that executed their game plan to a T.

With a final score of 105 to 99 the Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2, and showed how dominant they could be leading by as many as 18.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 on 14-20 shooting and DeMar DeRozan added 32 on 14-23 from the field. They became just the second backcourt duo to each score 30+ in a conference final, and the first in Eastern Conference Finals history (Portland did it in 1992).

“It’s a cake walk for me once he gets going,” DeMar said about Lowry to assembled media of at the ACC following Game 4. “Teams focus on him, he’s our point guard, he’s our leader, and it’s great when the defence focuses on him.”

The Raptors always had these kind of games in them. Though they struggled through the first two series’ against Indiana and Miami, as soon as shots started falling against the Cavaliers the 56-win team from the regular season showed up.

Now a best-of-three series heads to Cleveland. Toronto won the regular-season series 2-1, but the home team has won every meeting this season and playoffs.

Some say the regular season doesn’t count for much but the Cavaliers won 57 games, one more than Toronto, and that could end up being the deciding factor if both teams continue to win on their home floor.

LeBron, however, has won 17 straight Eastern Conference playoff series dating back to his annual trips to the Finals with Miami and has other plans despite Toronto’s All-Star showing.

“They’re both All-Stars so you’ve got to tip your hat to them,” said James after the game. “But even with them both scoring 30 points we still had a chance to win it so we just can’t afford to dig ourselves a hole like that in the first half.”

Jonas Valanciunas was available to play after rolling his ankle in the second round, and coach Casey admitted he almost went with him just before the end of the first half, but the play of Bismack Biyombo made it tough to bring him out.

Biyombo finished with just five points but added 14 rebounds and three blocks and continues to stand above expectations in the void left by Valanciunas.

A vocal leader and emotional fan-favourite, Biyombo has earned a standing ovation every time he comes into the game and even garnered some MVP chants while toeing the line at the end of the game.

“He was huge because they’re committing one two or three people to box out they’re so worried about Biz, and that’s because they should be,” said coach Dwane Casey after the game. “He’s a great rebounder and one of our best screeners and he’s huge for us – his spirit and his toughness.”

LeBron has yet to score 30 points in the 2016 playoffs finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds, six assists and Kyrie Irving added 26 while Kevin Love finished the game on the bench after tweaking his ankle landing on a referee.

Before the game coach Casey cited two keys to the game: limiting turnovers and avoiding a fast paced game.

Turnovers – Raptors: 8 turnovers, Cavaliers: 10.
Fast break points – Raptors: 5, Cavaliers: 4
Game plan: Executed.

Toronto will need to bring the same level of intensity and focus. Continue limiting turnovers and dry spells where they can’t seem to buy a bucket.

It’s still anybody’s series.

Lowry and his Raptors | image courtesy Raptors.com Ron Turenne
Lowry and his Raptors | image courtesy Raptors.com Ron Turenne

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