The Toronto Raptors have felt all the highs and lows during their first trip to the Eastern Conference finals, enduring difficult road losses at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers and enjoying the roar of the home crowd in victories. On Friday night, the Raptors will attempt to stave off elimination when they host the Cavs at Air Canada Centre in Game 6.
No two Raptors have fluctuated more than All-Star backcourt mates Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and both recognize any chance of forcing a Game 7 begins with them.
“A lot of times it’s for us to get off the ball early and understand, on our back side, we can have four on three,” DeRozan told the Toronto Star. “We’ve got to take advantage of that. Other guys have got to be ready to make plays, and it’s on us to be able to get off the ball early.”
Lowry and DeRozan combined to shoot just 7-20 from the field for 27 points while no other Raptor scored in double-digits in Game 5’s demoralizing 116-78 loss. The Raptors shot 39.1 percent from the field, coughed up 18 turnovers, and lost the rebounding battle, 48-27.
It was an unfortunate game that likely soured Lowry’s feelings of making his first All-NBA team. The 10-year point guard was named to the All-NBA third team Thursday, after posting a career-high 21.2 points and 6.4 assists. DeRozan also garnered votes but missed out on the individual honors, and those are likely far from both guards’ minds.
As far as “other guys” making plays, Toronto may have to rely on its third star, center Jonas Valanciunas.
Toronto welcomed the Lithuanian back into the fold in Game 5, however, head coach Dwane Casey is slowly working his top big man back from a severe high ankle sprain that cost him eight straight games. Valanciunas came off the bench for 18 minutes and hit all four of his field attempts for nine points, but Casey stuck with fill-in center Bismack Biyombo.
Biyombo proved invaluable in Games 3 and 4, both Toronto victories, by snagging 40 rebounds and blocking seven shots. But Biyombo’s offensive game is limited, and Valaciunas has the post moves to cause some havoc against Cleveland’s average interior defense.
Casey expounded on how much Cleveland is willing to leave anyone, other than Lowry or DeRozan, open.
“They’re picking their poison. They understand what they’re doing,” Casey said. “Again, if we make one more pass, or attack and make one more pass, we could possibly get that shot. But again, we’ve got to be disciplined to look for that. But again, the guys wide open, nobody near you, those are the shots we’ve got to make and knock them down.”
Cleveland, meanwhile, is knocking on the door of a second-straight NBA Finals appearance and star forward LeBron James could also feature in the championship round for the sixth consecutive year.
Tipoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Betting Odds: Cleveland -6.5 points
Over/Under: 196 points
Predicted Score: Cleveland over Toronto, 110-94