Sports

NBA PLAYOFFS

Raptors put up a fight against Cavaliers, but fall for third time

By Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun

TORONTO - 

The fight was back, at least it was for three quarters.

DeMar DeRozan was back, again for three quarters.

All that was missing was an even average night for the Raptors from behind the arc.

Alas, that was not to be and the Raps wound up on the wrong end of a 115-94 score and are now just a game away from a second four-game sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the past three years.

Had they got even an average night from behind the three-point line, the Raptors might now be a game away from tying this series up.

Instead, a 2-for-18 night from distance ruined an otherwise solid showing for three quarters by a Raptors team that was playing without Kyle Lowry, its starting point guard, and playing hard before it simply ran out of gas against a Cavs team that showed more depth than they could offer up.

The game began with some bad news from a Raptors’ perspective when Lowry, who looked to have made a stunningly quick recovery from a Game 2 ankle injury, had his night end in the pre-game warmups when he abruptly left the court and headed back to the locker room.

The Raptors were prepared for this, but the feeling all day seemed to be that Lowry was at least going to be able to help a little.

“I know he was working to get it going, see how he felt shooting,” DeMar DeRozan said of Lowry. “I knew it was bothering him, but I didn’t know till late, till they did starting lineups, that he wasn’t gonna go. It was tough. It changed your mindset, not just for me, the whole team as well. We still competed. We still gave ourselves a great opportunity. They just took advantage of it.”

As the team’s leading three-point shooter at 41% through the regular season, even with a bad ankle Lowry probably would have made a contribution, had he been able to play — even as a secondary scorer.

But expecting anyone to come back from a badly sprained ankle in just 48 hours was probably not realistic from the get-go.

Nevertheless, there was a real chance for the Raptors in this one, but only if everything broke right. Through three quarters it almost did. LeBron James was not the same guy that owned the court in Cleveland through those first two games, but he didn’t need to be. Not when the Raptors couldn’t find any offence other than that which DeRozan produced.

DeRozan got some personal redemption after having to sit for two days and stew on that five-point effort in Game 2, going off for 37. But without some help elsewhere, it just wasn’t enough.

And without the win, the redemption obviously wasn’t very satisfying.

“It hasn’t worked out the way we wanted it to,” DeRozan said of the hole his Raptors are in. “We had different expectations, each and every game was different. Tonight we competed extremely well, but it sucks to get down late in the game. Nothing could fall for us, especially playing without Kyle.”

Head coach Dwane Casey’s one lament, besides the obvious poor night from behind the arc, was that he didn’t get more from his bench in this one.

All told, Toronto’s reserves had just nine points to the 30 Cleveland’s bench provided.

“We’ve got to get more than nine points from our bench,” Casey said.

The Raptors missed the first 12 three-pointers they attempted, not seeing one go down until Norm Powell took the lid off the basket with a make on attempt No. 13 by the team. That came midway through the third quarter and the Raps would get only one more the rest of the night.

It was in the fourth that James finally started to look like the King James from the first two games, pouring in nine points in the first six minutes of the quarter as the Cavs started to pull away for good.

James would finish with 35 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

For the game, Cleveland made 13 of its 23 three-point attempts meaning not even DeRozan’s big night made much of a difference.

DeRozan sat down to begin the fourth with his coach believing he needed “a blow.”

That respite lasted just less than two minutes before Casey put up the ‘Bat-signal’ for DeRozan to return.

“He had a minute and a half and he needed that,” Casey said of the DeRozan absence before he returned to play. “Once he came back in I think (the heavy workload) told on him. He had the same looks but he was drained. We rode him tonight. He did an excellent job of bouncing back.”

DeRozan wound up playing 41 minutes and sat down with the game out of reach with three minutes to go.

The 3-0 hole the Raptors find themselves in is the first since they were victims of a sweep two years ago in the first round in Washington. Avoiding the sweep this time around won’t be any easier.