Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cavs head home facing new battle

THUNDER wins: Draymond Green, middle, battles Enes Kanter and Kevin Durant as the Thunder takes a 3-1 series lead. Details at tampabay.com/sports.

Getty Images

THUNDER wins: Draymond Green, middle, battles Enes Kanter and Kevin Durant as the Thunder takes a 3-1 series lead. Details at tampabay.com/sports.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Upon their return from Canada, the Cavaliers had nothing to declare at U.S. Customs.

Their lead in the Eastern Conference finals had already been confiscated.

Cleveland was stripped of its 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 1 and 2, the Raptors turned the series into a best-of-three, winner-take-all slugfest. There wasn't supposed to be a Game 5, and now there will be a Game 6 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 are in a predicament.

Gone is their entire margin for error, some of their swagger and any aura of invincibility that surrounded them after reeling off 10 straight wins to open the postseason.

And as the teams prepared for Game 5 tonight, the pressure has swung back on superstar LeBron James and the Cavs, who spent Tuesday in film sessions breaking down went wrong in Toronto.

There was plenty to process from Monday's 105-99 loss.

Cleveland came out flat, falling behind by 16 in the first half and relying too much on its 3-point shooting, which has suddenly gone cold.

The Cavs fought back using a smaller lineup that didn't include the suddenly struggling Kevin Love, but they didn't have enough down the stretch as costly defensive lapses — and terrific shot-making by Lowry and DeRozan — helped the Raptors even the series.

James, who logged 46 minutes in Game 4, did not speak to the media Tuesday.

Lue has carefully administered the four-time MVPs minutes during the second half of the regular season and playoffs, to keep James fresh. James pushed himself harder in Game 4, and Lue said that was the plan.

"We talked about it before the game and the night before how his body felt and wanting to play more minutes because we knew it was a big game for us, but it didn't work out," Lue said.

James maximized his minutes in Game 4, scoring 29 on 11-of-16 shooting with nine rebounds and six assists. He was somewhat passive in the fourth quarter, attempting one shot in the final 5:28. Lue said that was by design as the Cavs took what the defense gave them.

"LeBron knows when he has to take over a basketball game, but also knows he has to trust his teammates," Lue said.

James' faith in Love is being tested.

Cleveland's big man went 1-for-9 in Game 3 and 4-for14 in Game 4, and Lue left him on the bench in the fourth, playing Channing Frye.

"He's just missed shots. That's part of the game," Lue said.

The Raptors have been daring the Cavs to launch from behind the arc. Without center Jonas Valanciunas, who could return in Game 5 from a sprained right ankle, Toronto gave up 106 inside points in the first two games before adjusting in Games 3 and 4 by packing the paint.

"It's a feel," Raptors coach Dwane 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."

Cavs head home facing new battle 05/24/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2016 11:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Ready to win, and win big:' Dick Vitale sees Bucs going 10-6

    Blogs

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, whose love and optimism for Tampa Bay sports teams goes far beyond basketball, has high hopes for the Bucs in 2017.

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, shown at One Buc Place last year when he announced a Bucs draft pick, has high hopes for Tampa Bay this fall, predicting a 10-6 record for the Bucs.
  2. Want elite college football athletes? Recruit Tampa Bay

    Blogs

    Now that college football watch list season is over (I think), here's one takeaway you probably already knew: Tampa Bay produces a lot of great athletes.

    Robinson High produuct Byron Pringle has gone from this performance in a high school all-star game to all-Big 12 at Kansas State.
  3. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Jake Faria had his lucky rubber duck — OG, the original one he has had since high school — with him, and the Rays had nothing to worry about as he put his rocky Wednesday outing well behind him, working into the eighth while scattering seven hits.

  5. Rays journal: Rookie Jacob Faria continues to show veteran poise

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles threatened in the first inning and the second. They loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning with the top of the order up and seemed poised for a big inning. But those opportunities produced only one run because Rays rookie RHP Jacob Faria kept his composure and got the …

    Jacob Faria goes a career-high 71/3 innings, staying composed when the Orioles threaten.