Feeding off the energy of their fans at home in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals , the Toronto Raptors came out with determination and intensity to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers at Air Canada Center in Toronto 99-84.
Raptors point guard and leader Kyle Lowry provided the initial spark for the home team, scoring eight first-quarter points and getting the fans into a state of frenzy.
But it was the sensational performances by the triumvirate of rim protector extraordinaire Bismark Biyombo, shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, and Lowry that got the Raptors back in this series.
With their backs to the wall after being down two games, the Raptors realized that Game 3 at home against the Cavaliers was a must-win proposition.
DeRozan led the Raptors with a game-high 32 points and Lowry had 20 points.
Biyombo, who does a finger wag ala Dikembe Mutombo after blocking a shot, scored seven points, plus a team record 26 rebounds and four critical blocks.
The Raptors shot 45.8 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three-point range while outscoring the Cavaliers in the paint, according to Bleacherreport.
After winning the first two games in lopsided fashion, some analysts predicted that the Raptors would be swept by the Cavaliers in the series.
The Cavs, who had won all their post season games until Saturday, did not bring their A game to Air Canada Center.
In the first two games the Cavs relentlessly attacked the paint and shot the ball well; in Game 3, they settled for jump shots that time after time repeatedly clanged off the rim.
As usual, LeBron James had 24 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. J.R Smith scored 22 points, and Channing Frye finished with 11 points for the Cavs.
What handed the first defeat of the post season to the Cavs was the lack of production from two of their biggest stars – point guard kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love.
Irvin had 13 points on 3-of-19 shooting.
Love, who did not score a single point in the first half, finished with three points.
The Raptors deserve a lot of credit for taking Irving and Love out of their comfort zones with aggressive, tough defense on both stars.
Game four in what is now an interesting series is scheduled for Monday.
By Bayo Akinnagbe