But the Toronto Raptors were finally able to dent the Cavs, winning Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals 99-84 to bring the series to 2-1 and stop Cleveland’s 17-game conference playoff winning streak dating to last season.
The Raptors executed a game-plan switch, focusing far more on keeping the Cavs away from the basket and gambling to allow their 3-point shooters space. The same game plan felled the Atlanta Hawks in the second round, but the Raptors had to do something after the Cavs racked up 106 points in the paint in the first two games.
The Cavs gladly switched to their gunning ways and got plenty of open looks. J.R. Smith was happy to fire way, ringing home six 3s. But on the road in a hostile situation, their overall accuracy came back toward reality. They still drilled 14 3-pointers after making only 14 total in Games 1 and 2, but it took 41 attempts and all of those misses created fast-break chances for Toronto.
Perhaps just as vital, though, was how the more desperate Raptors just outworked the Cavs for rebounds and loose balls. This was true up and down the lineup, but personified by Bismack Biyombo, who was a fountain of energy as he vacuumed up 26 rebounds to go with four blocked shots. He dominated Cavs’ bigs Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, who seemed unusually flat-footed most of the night and didn't score any points.
James had another well-rounded game with 24 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, but he was the only Cav who seemed to carry over the fire in the paint that sustained his team earlier in the series.
Love was just as miserable offensively as he was on the boards, going 1-for-9 from the floor and basically turning into a non-factor. So was Kyrie Irving, who the Raptors clearly crowded with more defenders as an in-series adjustment. Irving was frustrated with his lack of space all night and missed eight of his first nine shots, finishing 3-for-19.