The Toronto Raptors will try to even the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2, with a win today in Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8:30 p.m. EST.
After winning Game 3 by 15 points, the Raptors have a chance to continue their momentum in front of their home court, the Air Canada Centre. The Cavaliers had their worst playoff game so far, but will try leaving Toronto with a 3-1 series lead behind their Big 3 of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving.
Jonas Valanciunas is a game-time decision for Game 4, while Dahntay Jones of the Cavaliers is suspended for today’s game after hitting Bismack Biyombo in the groin during Game 3.
Cage’s Keys To The Game
Protect the 3-Point Line
The Raptors have been great in the past three games at defending the Cavaliers’ biggest weapon, the 3-point shot.
The Cavaliers haven’t yet been able to shoot 40 per cent or more against the Raptors, when their playoff 3-point percentage is still the highest in the league at 43.5 per cent. Just because the Cavaliers haven’t been as efficient as they were agains the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks, it doesn’t mean they’re going to move away from their strategy.
In Game 3, the Cavaliers went 14-41 from 3-point distance but still left with a loss. Channing Frye, who went 3-4 from distance, was a big weapon for the Cavaliers. He along with Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Irving and Love will continue shooting the 3, since they’re still hitting over 40 per cent of their attempts.
Start Off Strong
In Game 3, the Raptors started off strong by winning the first quarter 27-24, which helped them win their first game of the Eastern Conference Finals.
DeMar DeRozan was a big reason, with his 12 points on 5-8 shooting, helping the Raptors build up a lead they could hold in front of their home crowd. DeRozan has been a great option for the Raptors to open up games, after he lead them during the regular season with 6.9 points on 46.4 per cent shooting from the field and 44.2 per cent from distance in the first 12 minutes.
Having a strong first quarter seems to be very important for the Raptors, since they’ve won their last five games after winning the opening frame.
Keep LeBron Out of the Paint
Easier said than done, right?
James is a terror for opposing defences because of his ability to get to the rim better than anyone else in the league. During the playoffs he’s taken a total of 196 shots, so far 105 of them have been attempted less than 5 feet away from the basket. When he’s taking shots around the rim, he’s been making 69.6 per cent of his attempts.
“The King” has taken full advantage of his strength against the Raptors down low, having already attempted 28 of his 43 shots at the rim. There’s nothing the Raptors can do when James gets such good position, with him nailing 82.1 per cent of his attempts against them.
The Raptors will need to force James to take more shots away from the basket, where he’s been struggling. In the playoffs, James has been shooting 28.3 per cent from 3-point distance, making it a shot the Raptors can live with him taking.
X-Factor: Bismack Biyombo
Biyombo had the biggest game of his career in Game 3, helping the Raptors earn their biggest win in franchise history. Big Bizness set a franchise record of 26 rebounds, along with 4 blocks.
With Valacniuans still out, Biyombo will be expected to step up again and remain a powerful force for the Raptors. Ever since Valanciunas went out in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, Biyombo In just over 31 minutes of action a game has averaged 8.6 points on 64.9 per cent shooting, 11 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Bismack Biyombo’s block on LeBron was so good they called him for a foul https://t.co/haGLG7iaRO
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) May 22, 2016
His intensity and finger-wagging could provide another spark for the Raptors to have in front of their home crowd in Game 4.
All stats for this article are from NBA.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97