One of the most daunting things about playing the Cleveland Cavaliers is having to face their "Big Three" of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.
Well, the Toronto Raptors have a new "Big Three" of their own forming in Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and (you guessed it) Bismack Biyombo. All three were huge in Game 4, propelling their team to a 105-99 victory and a 2-2 series tie.
Here's your breakdown.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan's best game as a duo
Of the 301 games that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have played together as teammates, this was almost certainly their best combined performance.
Lowry was absolutely unconscious, scoring 35 points on 14-for-20 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 from three-point range, good for an Effective Field Goal Percentage (weighted twos and threes) of 80.0%. His shot chart from this one was pornographic:
Lowry rounded out his line with five rebounds, five assists, and three steals, while leading the game in deflections (5) and loose balls recovered (2).
DeRozan was also brilliant, scoring 32 points on 14-for-23 shooting, while adding three rebounds, three assists, and a steal. His shot chart was equally sexy, as he shot above 50% from within the restricted area, in the paint, and from the midrange.
Lowry and DeRozan combined for 67 points, the most they've ever put up together in a single game, including all regular season and postseason appearances.
Also, with both scoring over 30 points and shooting north of 60.0% for the game, they joined a few exclusive clubs together:
#Raptors Lowry & DeRozan are the first teammates to score 32+ points in a Conference Finals Game since Shaq & Kobe in Game 3 of 2001 WCF— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 24, 2016
Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan join Terry Porter & Clyde Drexler (1992 Game 2) as only starting backcourts to each score 30 in Conf Finals game.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 24, 2016
Lowry & DeRozan are the 1st teammates with 30 Pts, 60% FG in a Conference Finals game since Barkley/Majerle in 1993. pic.twitter.com/EGgrdbyqUi— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) May 24, 2016
And Biyombo makes three
The success of this current iteration of the Toronto Raptors is often measured in the performances of Lowry and/or DeRozan, but a big part of the reason that the Raptors have managed to get themselves out of an initial 0-2 hole to even this series at two games apiece is the play of Bismack Biyombo.
Fresh off a career-best performance of seven points, 26 rebounds (tied for a post-season NBA record and the most ever by a Raptor in any context), and four blocks, Biyombo kept his foot on the gas (and his finger wagging) by racking up another five points, 14 rebounds, and three blocked shots.
As has been the norm in this series, he also led the game in screen assists with eight and contested shots with 15 (including five contested threes).
The newest member of Toronto's "Big Three" even garnered non-ironic MVP chants from the ACC crowd when he stepped to the free throw line late in the fourth quarter and, in the context of these last two Raptors wins, he certainly deserved the praise.
A few keys to the Raptor wins versus Raptor losses
There have been a couple key differences in the box score between the two Raptor wins and their two losses.
First of all, the winner of the points in the paint battle has won each contest:
|Game 1||56-36 CLE||CLE|
|Game 2||50-28 CLE||CLE|
|Game 3||36-20 TOR||TOR|
|Game 4||44-36 TOR||TOR|
Also, each of the four games in this series so far has featured a lopsided second quarter. The team that has held the advantage in that frame has gone on to win each contest:
2nd quarters thru 4 GP in #CAVSvRAPTORS— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 24, 2016
Game 1: 32-20, CLE edge
Game 2: 33-16, CLE edge
Game 3: 33-23, TOR edge
Game 4: 30-17, TOR edge
Finally, the Cavaliers have taken 82 three-pointers and 51 shots in the paint in their two losses, compared to 41 threes and 77 shots in the key over their two wins.
Call it Cleveland's gameplan or Toronto's defensive adjustments, but either way, the Cavaliers won the first two games by dominating the inside and shooting an uncharacteristically low number of threes, and the flipping of that script over the last two games has turned this series around for the Raptors.
The Cavaliers shot 46.2% from long range over in their sweeps of the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks, but are down to just 33.3% in the Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto. That difference has been huge.
And with that, the Toronto Raptors are back in this series. They are making NBA pundits and fans alike apologize for writing them off before this series even got to Toronto, and are now seriously only two wins away from an NBA Finals appearance. Or, as the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat so eloquently put it:
The Raptors are two wins away from being four wins away.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) May 24, 2016