MONTREAL: Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan scored more than 30 points each as the Toronto Raptors withstood a ferocious Cleveland Cavaliers fightback to level their Eastern Conference finals series on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) with a 105-99 victory.
Lowry scored 35 points while DeRozan weighed in with 32 as Toronto completed a victory that leaves the best-of-seven series tied at 2-2 with three games to play.
The win continues a remarkable transformation in fortunes for Toronto, who had lost the opening two games of the series heavily to trail 2-0.
The Canadian franchise — playing in its first Eastern Conference finals — held its nerve to hang on for a thrilling win on Monday.
“They played well the first two games and they protected home,” Lowry said. “Now we’ve protected home.”
With Lowry and DeRozan in imperious form, the Raptors had surged into an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter.
However, the Cavs rallied superbly through LeBron James, who finished with 29 points, and Kyrie Irving to haul themselves back into the contest.
With just over five minutes of the fourth quarter remaining, the Cavs had wiped out the deficit and taken a 92-89 lead.
But just when it looked as if the Cavs might score a vital road victory — and open up a 3-1 series lead — the Raptors rallied again, going on an 11-3 scoring run in the closing minutes to claim the win.
“I thought we had control of the game, built a three-point lead, but we just made some defensive mistakes that you can’t make down the stretch,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Each time we made a mistake they made us pay.
“We had an opportunity to not play well and win that game. They executed every time we made a mistake.”
Horrible first half
James, who also had nine rebounds, bemoaned the Cavs lackluster start to the game.
“We got off to a horrible first half and we were playing catch up,” James said.
“We had a chance to win the ballgame but we can’t dig ourselves a hole like we did in the first half.”
Toronto’s defensive giant Bismack Biyombo produced another towering performance near the rim, mopping up 14 rebounds to keep the Cavs at bay.
The Raptors had led 27-24 after the first quarter after opening up an eight-point lead at one stage.
DeMarre Carroll had seven first-quarter points to lead the Raptors scoring while Cavs got seven points from Kyrie Irving.
Toronto went 13 points clear with 4:35 left in the second when Patrick Patterson laid up before Lowry drained a three.
Toronto was comfortably ahead 57-41 at half-time and early in the third led by 18 after another DeRozan basket.
However two Irving three-pointers helped trim the deficit for the Cas while J.R.Smith’s three cut the lead to seven.
The Raptors hung on however to lead 78-69 at the end of the third.
But Cleveland then reeled off the first five points of the fourth quarter to narrow the gap and soon trailed by one point after Channing Frye made his second straight three-pointer.
James then gave Cleveland a fleeting one-point advantage before the lead changed hands several times in a frenzied finale.
The crucial passage came when first Lowry and Biyombo sank free throws to put Toronto five points ahead with 2:22 left.
Irving’s three-pointer put the Cavs within two, but Toronto held on.
“We were solid down the stretch, understanding that when they scored we had to come down and get a bucket” DeRozan said.