Cavs move one game away from Eastern Conference Finals

It was a matter of too much LeBron James and no Kyle Lowry on Friday night.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) protects the ball from Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) during the first half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball second-round playoff series in Toronto on Friday, May 5, 2017.

The Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers Game 3 kicks off at 7:00 p.m. He's averaging 34.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.3 assists in these playoffs, on 57 per cent shooting.

Cleveland regained the lead on a basket by Love with 1:12 left in the third and Korver added a pair of 3-pointers in the final 47 seconds to give the Cavs the lead going to the fourth.

Casey was unusually optimistic considering his team was looking at this game as an important opportunity to play their way back into the series.

Kyle Lowry suited up on Friday and gave his best effort at being on the floor with his teammates, but ultimately was unable to play because of the sprained ankle sustained in Game 2.

The Cavs started the second quarter strong as well, but again became lackadaisical and allowed the Raptors to keep the game close. Tonight we competed extremely well, but it sucks to get down late in the game.

Things fell apart in the fourth as the Cavaliers found another gear and the Raptors struggled to contain their offence after doing a solid job through the first three quarters.

Then consider that DeRozan scored only one point in the fourth period. He's comfortable. We can't let him be comfortable.

"I'm probably doubtful, honestly", Lowry said. "There was no back down". He participated in the warmup and was listed as active for the game, but Cory Joseph started in his place. "He was limping badly".

"They really locked in on us", said DeRozan. "Especially going into that fourth quarter, every single second matters for us to execute on both ends".

As a team, the Cavaliers dominated on the rebounding front, holding a 49-25 advantage.

Toronto shot only 2 of 18 from 3-point range while the Cavaliers were 13 of 23.

"I could've kept going", DeRozan said. It will hurt everybody all summer if we don't come out and hold onto the rope together. The optimist says they got it half right.

Aldridge had managed just 19 points combined in the first two games, but stepped up in game three. Neither played in the fourth quarter, as a lineup of James, Kyle Korver (more on him in a minute), Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams and Tristan Thompson suffocated a depleted Raptors bunch. DeRozan scored from everywhere but the 3-point line. Totals 38-87 16-17 94. You train, you hit the heavy bag, you bounce out and you come out and you go to the rope-a-dope for 15 rounds instead of throwing a punch. He contributed 14 points on 4 of 6 from behind the arc.

"But I've still got more time".

"DeRozan was awesome, he gave everything that he had", James said. "And, for whatever reason, couldn't get started".

"Sunday's game is about pride", Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

"This was his best game, obviously", Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Aldridge. "I can only focus on the present, and that's what we did today. I don't really think about the sweep, I don't think of anything but how can I as leader of the ballclub put our guys in a position to be successful".

Cleveland of course took down the Raptors in six games in last year's conference finals, which means the Cavs lost games 3 and 4. They opened the playoffs with a 7-0 record in 1949 and did it again in 1950.

Cleveland won 10 straight to begin the playoffs a year ago, a streak that ended when Toronto beat the Cavs in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Cavaliers have been very vocal in their confidence of winning this series, and now likely have at least one eye on the Wizards-Celtics series, scouting who they will play next.

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Vanessa Coleman