The Cleveland Cavaliers fought their way through 15 turnovers and stagnant second-quarter offense on the way to a 115-94 victory over the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Air Canada Centre Friday night.
With the win, the Cavaliers took a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and will go for the closeout victory on Sunday afternoon.
Small forward LeBron James led the way with 35 points on nine-of-16 shooting and a 15-of-16 showing from the free-throw line. Despite committing five turnovers, James was impactful in all facets of play, as he handed out seven assists and pulled down eight rebounds.
James hit a pair of left-handed turnaround jumpers from the free-throw line in his 90th career 30-point postseason game.
In addition to James, the Cavaliers got double-digit scoring production from power forward Kevin Love, point guard Kyrie Irving and reserve shooting guard Kyle Korver. Love and Irving scored 16 points each, while Korver sunk four of his six looks from three-point range on the way to a 14-point effort.
Without starting point guard Kyle Lowry because of a leg injury suffered in Game 2, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan overcame his early-series woes and scored 37 points.
Cleveland Cavaliers battle Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Finals
As expected after two blowout losses at Quicken Loans Arena, the Raptors came out strong in front of the home fans, the Cavaliers knocked down 10 of their 19 shots on the way to a 28-24 lead after the first quarter of play.
Fresh off of making 18 three-pointers in Game 2, the Cavaliers hit just one of their three looks from long distance over the first 12 minutes of play, but went nine of 14 from the field and buried all seven of their free throws on the way to the first-quarter advantage.
The Cavaliers established Love early, and he responded by making four of his six looks from the field and both of his free throws on the way to a 10-point first quarter performance. Additionally, Love pulled down four rebounds.
Irving scored seven points and James added six of his own, with one rebound and one assist.
The Raptors closed the first half on a 17-8 scoring run over the final six minutes and took a 52-49 lead over the Cavaliers into halftime.
The Cavaliers started the second quarter on a 9-4 run, led by James’ play.
Eight seconds into the quarter, James knocked down a two-point shot, and followed it up with a pair of free throws one minute later. Then, on the next trip down the floor, James buried an off-balance step-back three-pointer from the top of the key.
Shooting guard Iman Shumpert finished the run by getting an offensive rebound after having his initial shot blocked and converting an uncontested layup in the lane, but after taking a 37-28 lead, the Cavaliers went into a scoring drought over the next two-plus minutes and the Raptors went to work on the offensive end.
Toronto scored seven straight points, but the Cavaliers maintained their lead when James knocked down one of two free throws after a clear-path foul was whistled against Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan on a three-quarter court inbounds pass from power forward Kevin Love.
Then, after fast-paced play yielded no results, the Cavaliers settled into the half-court and shooting guard J.R. Smith buried a pull-up three-pointer from the left wing with 6:05 to play in the first half. The three-pointer gave the Cavaliers a 41-35 lead and forced Toronto to call a timeout.
The Raptors responded well out of the timeout, going on an 8-2 run before Irving broke the tie with a three-pointer from the top of the key, but Toronto closed out the first half on a scoring run.
Cavaliers reserve guard Kyle Korver sunk a pair of late three-pointers and that six-point spurt gave the team a 79-77 lead over the Raptors after the third quarter.
The Cavaliers started the second half on a 5-2 run and drew even with the Raptors at 54 all when James converted a pair of free throws, but Toronto responded with a quick 4-0 spurt to retake the lead.
Although the Cavaliers continued to struggled on the defensive end of the floor and with turnovers, Smith and Love evened the score at 60-60 when back-to-back three-pointers from the right wing. However, the Raptors utilized DeRozan’s emergence.
DeRozan continued his hot shooting in the third quarter, first converting a three-point play after sinking a shot just inside the three-point line while getting fouled by Smith right before pulling up. Then, DeRozan got another runner in the lane to go for a 65-62 lead with 6:28 to play in the period.
The Cavaliers ended the third quarter on a 17-12 run.