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List of Articles by Homer D. Sayson


 

And suddenly, the Cavs are no longer unblemished

By Homer D. Sayson
PhilBoxing.com
22 May 2016



CHICAGO -- After losing Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals by a combined 50 points, the Toronto Raptors appeared like a team without pulse, completely overwhelmed by the rampaging juggernaut that is the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But with their collective backs pushed against the wall on Saturday night, the Raptors played with the poise and resilience of a team that withstood two Game 7 battles against the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat in the first two rounds.

More importantly, in front of their raucous home crowd, the prideful Raptors played with the might of a No.2 seed that won 56 regular season games.

And just like that, Toronto convincingly pocketed Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre, 99-84. And if they can hold serve again within the next 48 hours, this East Finals series may just be a competition, not a Cavaliers coronation.

"It's not over with yet, but everybody thought we were going to get swept. I think that fuels us, and if that's what it takes, so be it," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told NBA.com after handing the Cavaliers their first playoffs loss in 11 games.

DeMar DeRozan anchored the Raptors resurgence with 32 points on 12 -for-24 shooting. Kyle Lowry, much maligned for his Game 2 locker room retreat, responded with a workmanlike 20 points, 6 boards and 3 assists, but it was Bismack Biyombo who provided much of the energy with 26 rebounds and 4 blocks to go along with 7 points.

Now logging heavy minutes after starting center Jonas Valanciunas sustained an injury, the 23-year old Biyombo is making the most of his extended minutes, playing with reckless abandon, especially on defense and glass work.

After trailing 60-42 in the opening half, the Cavaliers closed in at 77-7 with 1:08 left in the third quarter. The Raptors responded with a Corey Joseph 3 to lead by 10 entering the fourth quarter where their defense took over, holding the Cavs to 14 points the rest of the way.

LeBron James mirrored his usual greatness with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, but Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the other cast members of Cleveland's Big 3, played like the Terrible Two.

Irving finished with only 13 points after missing 16 of 19 shots. Love, meanwhile, swished only 1 of 9 field goals for 2 points. The All-Star pair, who couldn't seem to miss anything in Games 1 and 2 at the Quicken Loans Arena, couldn't seem to make any at the Air Canada Centre.

LeBron insists that Love's and Irving's struggles "are good for them."

Maybe so. But their hiccup is definitely much better for the Raptors, who have quickly and decisively come back to life after being given up for dead by the pundits.

With their talent and experience, LeBron and company will still most likely earn an NBA Finals ticket when all is said and done in this East Finals series.

But for one blistering night, the Raptors proved that the Cavalierss, who swept through Detroit and Atlanta in the first two rounds, are just as vulnerable as any other team left standing in these 2016 NBA playoffs.

Photo: Bismack Biyombo (L) turned in a monster game (26 rebs, 4 blocks) to help the Raptors claw the Cavs, 99-84, in Game 4 of the East Finals.


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