RAPTORS TAKE ON LEBRON, CAVS:
TORONTO — 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 115-94. 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 threepoint attempts before Powell finally ended the long-range 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 three-point range. Toronto couldn’t buy a three-point basket, going 2 of 18 on the night.
Raptors guard Norman Powell dunks as Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert (4) and forward LeBron James look on during the first half in Toronto on Friday. LORI EWING