Cavaliers lose series lead, invincible aura
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP):
Upon their return from Canada, the Cavaliers had nothing to declare at US Customs.
Their lead in the Eastern Conference finals had already been confiscated.
Cleveland were stripped of their dominance and a 2-0 advantage during a long weekend in Toronto, where the growing-confident-by-the-shot Raptors - propelled by a crowd and city that believes they can make the NBA Finals - won two straight games.
"They flipped the script on us," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
After being throttled by a combined 50 points in Games One and Two, the Raptors turned a series that began with blowouts into a best-of-three, winner-take-all slugfest. There wasn't supposed to be a Game Five and now there will be a Game Six as well.
Unable to contain Toronto All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan from scoring or keep Raptors super sub Bismack Biyombo off the boards, the Cavs have put themselves in a predicament.
For tonight's Game Five, the pressure has swung back on superstar LeBron James and the Cavs, after Monday night's 105-99 loss.
No offence to rapper Drake and Toronto's rowdy fans, but Lue was happy to escape ''We the North'.
The Raptors have been daring the Cavs to launch from behind the arc. Without centre Jonas Valanciunas, who could return in Game Five from a sprained right ankle, Toronto gave up 106 inside points in the first two games before adjusting in Games Three and Four by packing the paint and forcing Cleveland to rely on their outside attack.
It was a risky move by coach Dwane Casey and his staff, but the strategy paid off and helped the Raptors reverse the series.
"It's a feel," Casey said. "It's a rhythm. It's confidence, but I will say this: It's going to be a different animal back in Cleveland."