The Raptors entered the NBA Playoffs with more promise than ever. The No. 1 seed. An exciting, cohesive roster with established veterans and promising youth. A Cavaliers team that looked vulnerable all season. It has meant nothing, and that is thanks to LeBron James.
After going 59-23 in the regular season, the Raptors now stand on the brink of elimination, down 3-0 to those supposedly vulnerable Cavaliers with little reason for fans to expect this series will be going back to Toronto. It was James who ended Game 3 with a thrilling buzzer beater, ending the hopes of a Raptors team that had just tied it at 105 thanks to a 3-pointer from rookie OG Anunoby.
The Raptors managed to claw back from commanding Cavaliers leads multiple times, but were never able to follow through and reverse the course of the series. Their last chance was the most heartbreaking, coming up short after a comeback throughout the fourth quarter.
James finished with 38 points, seven assists, six rebounds and one ice-cold game-winner.
The Raptors tried to shake things up before the game, inserting guard Fred VanVleet into the starting lineup in place of Serge Ibaka and trying to go small. That specific decision at least seemed to work out with VanVleet finishing as the only starter with a positive plus/minus rating, but it didn’t really matter as DeMar DeRozan posted his worst game of the playoffs.
DeRozan finished with eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, inefficient across the board, and zero points in the fourth quarter. His defense wasn’t much better, lowlighted by a moment where he landed an elbow on James’ head while the star was driving to the basket. Kyle Lowry was the main source of hope for Toronto through the game, leading the team with 27 points and 15 in the fourth quarter as well as seven assists.
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