Over the last few years, LeBron James has done his fair share of tormenting and extinguishing the Toronto Raptors during the postseason.
James will continue haunting their nightmares in 2018, as his buzzer-beater in Game 3 gave the Cavs a 105-103 win and a commanding 3-0 series lead over their foes from the North on Sunday night.
With eight seconds remaining, Toronto’s O.G. Anunoby tied the game with a three-pointer. The Cavs called a timeout, giving themselves some time to regroup for one last shot at a win without heading to overtime.
James did what James does best. He caught the ball and dribbled it the length of the floor before finishing a one-legged, off-balance shot on the left baseline over Anunoby to win the ballgame.
Keep in mind, the Raptors redesigned their entire system of play during the offseason to try and avoid moments like the one described above. Insert whatever already overused Thanos metaphor you have for James here. It is accurate and not an overstatement.
The Raptors outscored the Cavs 38-26 in the fourth quarter, but James finished with 16 of those 26 Cleveland points. Kyle Lowry matched him nearly point-for-point with 15 in the frame to give Toronto a chance to tie it up down the stretch. From the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Raptors were playing like a team that knew its entire season was on the line.
They opened the quarter on a 15-6 run, part of which included 10 straight from Lowry. They did all of that without DeMar DeRozan, who was benched in the fourth quarter after just eight points through the first three. But down the stretch, with every Raptors basket, James still refused to back down.
But let’s rewind to the beginning.
Feeling the heat, the Raptors decided to go with a small lineup to start the game, subbing in Fred VanVleet for Serge Ibaka. The adjustment didn’t give the Raptors anything extra, and the Cavs got off to arguably the best imaginable start in the game, going up 16-4. Kevin Love was once again able to clean up the boards inside due to mismatches, pulling down eight in the frame.
Toronto fought back, as Lowry began to catch fire and the Raptors pulled within five at the end of the quarter, 24-19. They kept some of that momentum going into the second and got as close as one point at the 5:08 mark, still down 39-38.
Over the final five minutes of the first half, however, the Cavs went on a 14-2 run. Kyle Korver scored seven of his first-half 12 points during that stretch, and James put up nine points to give the Cavs a 55-40 lead.
In the third quarter, it was Love that feasted with LeBron on the bench. James subbed out at the 4:04 mark and the Cavs up 11. Over the waning minutes of the quarter, Love scored seven points (nine total in the frame) to increase their lead to 14.
For the third straight game, the Cavs had five players score in double-digits. James ended with 38 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Love ended with a double-double of 21 points and 16 boards. Korver (18), George Hill (12) and Jeff Green (11) rounded out the Cavs’ leading scorers.
For Toronto, Lowry finished with 27 points. Anunoby put up 18, 11 of which came in the second half.
Up Next: The Cavs will try and close out this series on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena. Tip-off for Game 4 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.