TORONTO — On a night that marked the Toronto Raptors' most dramatic game of the post-season, they clawed their way back to tie up the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, while DeMar DeRozan added 32 in the Raptors' 105-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, two games after the Raptors had been all but written off.
DeMarre Carroll chipped in with 11 points, while Bismack Biyombo hauled down a game-high 14 rebounds.
LeBron James points had 29 to top Cleveland.
Backed by Lowry's sharp-shooting, the Raptors raced out to an 18-point first half lead. But the Cavaliers, who'd made just three of their 22 three-point shots in the first half started hitting from long distance, and when Irving drained two straight, he pointed at Drake as he ran back upcourt.
Kyle Lowry lays in two of his 35 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game 4 of the NBA Conference Finals in Toronto on May 23, 2016. (Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
The Raptors led 78-69 to start the fourth, but Channing Frye drained three straight threes, and when James scored on a driving layup with 8:20 left, the Cavaliers took their first lead of the game.
Toronto hit back with five straight points to take a three-point into the game's final three minutes. Irving drained a three, but a basket by DeRozan, and a couple of key rebounds, had the Raptors up by four with 42 seconds left.
Lowry drove to the hoop for a basket with 23 seconds left, to the ear-splitting roar of the Air Canada Centre crowd, and Biyombo grabbed a rebound with five seconds to play. He was fouled on the play, but missed both free throws. The crowd didn't care — they saluted him with chants of "M-V-P!"
The Raptors were clobbered by the Cavaliers by 50 points combined in Games 1 and 2 in Cleveland, but backed by the hometown crowd, roared to a 99-84 win in Game 3.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Cleveland, then the series returns to Toronto for Game 6 on Friday.
Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) is hugged by Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) after the final buzzer. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
A day after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined US$25,000 for criticizing the officiating, the referees drew the ire of Toronto fans once again.
The Raptors didn't go the free throw line once in the first half — a rare occurrence. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team led by at least 15 at halftime in a conference finals without a free throw attempt was Milwaukee in 2001 versus Philadelphia.
When the Cavs were whistled for their first foul, the crowd gave the referees a sarcastic standing ovation.
When Biyombo picked up his third foul late in the first half, the Congolese big man shook his head and grinned in disbelief.
The ACC crowd, all in white, was in full voice from the opening tipoff, and included NFL legend Terrell Owens and Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly, Toronto FC star striker Sebastian Giovinco and actor Stephen Amell, star of the superhero TV drama Arrow.
The Raptors raced out to another strong start, shooting 52 per cent in the first quarter, and holding the Cavs to 21 per cent from three-point range. Toronto took a 27-24 lead into the second.
The Raptors kept up a torrid pace in the second, and when Lowry scored on a step-back jumper with 32 seconds to play in the half, the bucket boosted Toronto's advantage to 18 points. They headed into the locker-room up 57-41.