TORONTO • The National Basketball Association (NBA) play-offs are full of high-profile buddy acts.
Out west, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder have been grappling with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors in a Conference Finals series fraught with drama. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have engineered their own star turn in the shadow cast by the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Not long ago, Toronto's season was on the brink. But with two straight home wins, they have tied the Eastern Conference Finals series entering Game 5 this morning (Singapore time).
On Monday, DeRozan and Lowry combined for 67 points, while shooting 28 of 43 from the field in a 105-99 Game 4 victory over the Cavaliers at Air Canada Centre.
"It's a cakewalk for me once he gets going," said DeRozan, who shot 14 of 23 from the field for 32 points. "It opens up everything for me on the floor. Teams try to focus on him, and he knows when to get me going."
The Cavaliers looked unstoppable when they showed up in Toronto last week, having won all 10 of their play-off games. But DeRozan and Lowry rediscovered their rhythm, effectively turning a best-of-seven series into a best of three.
Lowry, in particular, has returned to form. After making only eight of 28 from the field in the first two games of the series, he has shot 21 of 33 in the last two.
"I think some games we haven't shot the ball well, and we just continue to go back and understand the work that we've put in," he said.
Enter Bismack Biyombo, who has been a stout defender for the Raptors and one of the surprises of the post-season. Pushed into a starting job because of an ankle injury suffered by the higher-scoring Jonas Valanciunas, Biyombo has excelled at centre. In the Raptors' two wins, he had a total of 40 rebounds.
Compared with Valanciunas, who is more of an interior defender when healthy, Biyombo also gives coach Dwane Casey added versatility on defence.
NEW YORK TIMES
TORONTO V CLEVELAND
Game 5: StarHub Ch202, 8.30am