Oh, Toronto. Just when it appears that Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors were turning the corner after a huge road victory in Miami in Game 3, the Toronto “Chokers” reappeared, as did Stephen Curry, the MVP of basketball. Toronto wasted a golden opportunity to take a 3-1 series lead back to Canada for Game 5, and the Warriors effectively ended the Trail Blazers quest to best the best. Here’s a deep dive into last night’s games and a look ahead to the action in all of the other playoff series.
Toronto Raptors (Eastern Conference No.2) vs Miami Heat (Eastern Conference No. 3) – Tied 2-2
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Toronto Raptors held a 77-68 lead over the Miami Heat. All they needed to do was maintain that cushion, and they would be on their way to a probable Round 3 matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, Dwyane Wade’s clutch gene surfaced, and the Heat survived with a with a 94-87 overtime win.
Wade scored five straight, getting the Heat within just a bucket, 79-77. The deficit was still two when Lowry fouled out, on an offensive foul, with 1:58 left. The Heat finally got the equalizer with 12.6 seconds left, Wade getting to the rim for a layup that knotted the game up at 83-all.
Once again, the Raptors’ All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both struggled last night. DeRozan shot a putrid 3-13 from the field with just eight points, and Lowry shot a meager 4-14 from the field with ten points.
With both teams’ centers out (Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors and Hassan Whiteside for the Heat), both teams needed someone else outside of the star guards of Lowry and Wade to step up.
Miami’s Joe Johnson stepped up and answered the call to action. He scored 15 points the old-fashioned way, without hitting a three-pointer, and provided two critical blocks in overtime.
The Raptors got secondary scoring, even more so than Miami, as DeMarre Carroll scored 13, new starting center Bismarck Biyombo scored 13, Terrance Ross scored 14, and Corey Joseph scored 14. Yet, they couldn’t get their stars DeRozan and Lowry to step it up once again, whereas D-Wade once again dropped 30 points in a must-win game.
Both of Toronto’s All-Star guards struggled. Lowry couldn’t maintain the moment he gained by scoring 33 points in Game 3. In Game 4, Lowry mustered just ten points on eleven shots, and DeRozan only had nine points on seventeen shots. Ouch.
When teams have the veteran leadership like the Heat have, they don’t go down without a fight. AD-Wade, Amar’e, and Johnson-led team will not get scared of the moment. Despite the breakthrough of winning a series, the East’s second-best regular season team still looks afraid of the spotlight. It’s mind boggling because Toronto is a very good team with depth, stars, a coach who can coach, and role players who know their role. There aren’t many NBA teams who check all of those boxes.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Toronto won Game 7 because it’s in Canada; however, I’d much rather be rolling with the Heat. The Heat are scared of nothing, which means for them, anything is possible.
Golden State Warriors (Western Conference No. 1) vs Portland Trail Blazers (Western Conference No. 5) – 3-1
Stephen Curry is BACK. After struggling at first and coming off the bench, Curry scored 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a record 17 of those points in OT, which left the Warriors with 40 points from and a 132-125 victory over the Portland Trailblazers that essentially wrapped up the series.
Only 15 points TOTAL were scored in the overtime of Miami-Toronto Game 4, and Curry scored 17 alone in overtime. Just let that soak in.
Give credit to Portland, Damian Lillard gave it his all, roasting Klay Thompson and the W’s defense for 36 points and 10 assists, and CJ McCollum pitched in with 24. But make no mistake, tonight was all about the reestablishment of Curry as the best basketball player on Earth.
The most amazing thing about Curry’s performance is that this was first live, game action in two weeks, and he played 36 minutes. Steph not tiring and getting fatigued is an incredible accomplishment within itself. The scoring didn’t look like it would be back after the first half. However, the great ones always find a way, and Curry is a great one.
I think a fair amount of credit for Curry’s performance in Game 4 needs to go to the Warriors starting point guard in the contest, Shaun Livingston. Livingston was ejected for invading the referee’s personal bubble just before halftime, but that was what Curry needed.
Steve Kerr’s original game plan was to only play Curry 25 minutes and ease him back into the flow, but Livingston’s departure necessitated Curry to play eleven more minutes than originally planned. Those extra eleven minutes allowed Steph to get his feet back under him. Curry hit just one of his first ten three- point shots, and then proceeded to hit four of his next six three-pointers.
Ultimately, this game will prove to be the knockout punch for Portland’s season. They fought valiantly to defend their turf, but came up just short. Expect their fighting spirit to be extinguished and for the Warriors to closeout this series in Game 5 by double digits on Wednesday.
San Antonio Spurs (Western Conference No. 2) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (Western Conference No. 3) – 2-2
Despite LaMarcus Aldridge having his way with the Thunder thus far, but here we are with the series even at two a piece. Even though the Spurs have played incredible basketball, the Thunder have two of the best seven basketball players on the planet.
If Kevin Durant can keep scoring close to the 41 he dropped in Game 3 and Russell Westbrook continues to be assist-minded, the sky is the limit for the Thunder.
Yet, the Spurs will win in seven because the Thunder will not be able to maintain their perfect level of play they achieved in Game 3.
On To Round 3
Cleveland Cavaliers (Eastern Conference No. 1) vs Raptors/Heat (Eastern Conference No. 2 or No.3) – 0-0
The Cleveland Cavaliers have finally become a team that plays like a team. The ball is moving, and the threes are falling. They scored a record-setting 25 threes in Game 2, and power forward Kevin Love is shooting three-pointers better than he is two pointers.
With the ball moving and the threes falling at a Warriors-esque rate, the Cavs will not lose in the Eastern Conference playoffs and could very well end up hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy when the season concludes.
Featured image source: Craig Mitchelldyer