What a game: after blowing an 18-point lead, the Toronto Raptors fought back from a 3-point hole with 6 minutes to play to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 and even the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece.
The Raptors took control in the second quarter as Kyle Lowry went off, hitting on 6 of 7 for 15 points, almost single-handedly keeping pace with the Cavs, who collectively scored just 17 in the quarter, and sending his team into the locker room with 57-41 lead at the half.
A 10-point run early in the third quarter pulled the Cavs within 7, but DeMar DeRozan answered by scoring the next 6 points to make it 65-52. The Cavs kept coming, however, as three-pointers from LeBron James, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith helped bring the gap back down to 78-69 at the end of the third, setting the stage for a crazy fourth quarter.
The Cavs would hit their first 6 shots of the fourth, including three threes from Channing Frye, to take their first lead of the game at 84-83 with 8:20 to play. Over the next two minutes, both teams would hit three in a row from the floor, resulting in six more lead changes. Moments later, a Lowry 3-point play would tied the score at 92-92, and after going more than nine minutes without misses a field goal, the Cavs’ magic started to run out. Channing Frye missed from 24 feet, then again from 25 feet, and a minute later from 26 feet, while the Raptors continued to slowly pull away. After an incredible run when they made 13 shots in a row, the Cavs would only hit on 1 of 9 in the final four-and-a-half minutes.
The key play down the stretch came with the Raptors holding onto a 99-96 lead with 2:46 on the clock, when Lowry stripped James of the ball (he clearly fouled him, but the refs missed), and bolted the other way, drawing a foul from James, and making one of two free throws to inch the lead up to 100-96.
The Raptors have lived and died by Kyle Lowry all through the postseason, and on Monday he was at his best, leading all scorers with 35 on 14-of-20 shooting, 5 boards, 5 dimes, and 3 steals, and DeMar DeRozan was brilliant, as well, with 32 points on 14-of-23 shooting. It was the sixth time in their last nine games that the duo have combined for 50 or more points, with the Raptors winning five.
James had a great night, scoring 29 on 11-of-16 shooting, with 9 rebounds and 6 assists, and Kyrie Irving bounced back from a terrible Game 3 to score 26 on 11-of-21 shooting, but Love remained ice cold, with just 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Cleveland desperately needs Love to find his shot, as he’s hit on just 5 of 23 in the last two games.