DeRozan scores 37 points, but Raptors fall to 3-0 against Cleveland
On a night all-star point guard Kyle Lowry sat on the bench nursing a sprained ankle, DeMar DeRozan’s best playoff game of his career wasn’t enough.
DeRozan had a career playoff high 37 points, but the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away to beat the Toronto Raptors 11594. And now Toronto is one loss away from elimination.
LeBron James scored 35 points to top the Cavaliers, who take a 3-0 lead into Sunday’s Game 4 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal.
Jonas Valanciunas added 19 points for the Raptors, while Norman Powell chipped in with 13 and Serge Ibaka had 12.
The loss of Lowry was a huge blow to Toronto. The feisty point guard sprained his left ankle on Wednesday, joined his teammates for warmup, but was limping noticeably. He was listed as active but spent the night on the bench. Cory Joseph made his first playoff start in Lowry’s place, but finished with just four points.
The Raptors were happy to be home after being routed by a combined 33 points in Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland, buoyed by the fact they were in the same position last season. Toronto dropped two games in Cleveland
in last year’s conference finals but bounced back with two wins at home.
The Raptors led by as many as five points in the third quarter. They’d missed their first 12 three-point attempts before Powell finally ended the longrange drought with 3:09 to play in the third quarter. Kyle Korver drilled back-to-back three-pointers to send Cleveland into the fourth quarter with a 79-77 lead.
But the Raptors went ice cold in the fourth. Delon Wright’s basket less than a minute into the quarter was Toronto’s only field goal for almost six minutes. And when Brampton, Ont., native Tristan Thompson scored with 5:47 to play, it gave the Cavs a 99-80 lead, much to the dismay of the noisy, whiteclad Air Canada Centre crowd that included Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip and rapper Drake. The two Canadian musicians met on the court at halftime for a warm embrace.
A basket with Valanciunas ended a 17-1 Cavs run with 5:20 to play, but the game had got away from Toronto by that point.
The Cavs shot 51 per cent and were 13 of 23 from threepoint range. Toronto couldn’t buy a three-point basket, going 2 of 18 on the night.
Coach Dwane Casey had promised more fight from his team, saying they hadn’t been physical enough in Cleveland.
“You work all year to go against the champ in a boxing match. You train, you hit the heavy bag and you bounce out and you come out and go to the rope-a-dope instead of throwing a punch,’’ Casey said. “To beat the champ, you have to throw punches. Whether they’re haymakers, undercuts, whatever, maybe a couple below the belt, but you’ve got to box.’’
Valanciunas took the message to heart, sending James sailing into the court-side seats after the two got tangled up.
The physical play failed to slow the hard-charging Cavs.
After scoring just five points on Wednesday, DeRozan was the one bright spot on the night. He averages 32.7 points in games after sub-10 point performance, and was true to form, shooting 12 for 23 and making all 13 free throw attempts.
Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan sits on the bench during the second half of game three of an NBA playoff series basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Toronto on Friday.