TORONTO â€” Kyle Korver came off the bench late in the third quarter, giving Cleveland star LeBron James a breather. Then the 14-year veteran did what he does best â€” sink shots.
Korver, who entered with 2:01 remaining in the quarter and the Cavs leading Toronto 71-70, pulled down a rebound and hit back-to-back three-pointers to quiet the sold out Air Canada Centre crowd of 20,384.
Korver grabbed a rebound and hit another three to open Cleveland’s account in the fourth. The Cavaliers were off to the races, blowing past Toronto with a 36-17 quarter for a 115-94 win Friday that left the Raptors reeling â€” facing elimination in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal Sunday.
“Those were huge,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said of Korver’s timely three-pointers. “That’s why he’s here. He’s a specialist. No matter the time or the score, he’s always willing to make and take those big shots. That’s why we love him.”
Kyrie Irving seconded that.
“Kyle being himself, the best shooter in the world,” said the star guard. “I’m glad he’s on our team this year.”
Korver finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-6 from three point range, in a little more than 21 minutes. He also contributed at the other end, with two blocked shot in the fourth as Cleveland clamped a lid on Toronto’s offence.
Korver, whose four three-pointers were twice that of the entire Raptors lineup, played 10 minutes-plus in the decisive final quarter.
“You don’t get to play in the fourth quarter unless you play defence. I’ve learned that over the years,” said the six-foot-seven Korver. “I know I’m not the most athletic guy put there or the biggest guy, but I just try to be smart. I just play angles and play good team defence and I tried to do that tonight.”
James said the game tilted in the fourth because of two things.
“Well defensively we got stops. And Kyle got hot. And when Kyle gets hot, you’ve got to keep giving him the ball.”
Cleveland acquired Korver in January, sending Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams and a protected future first-round draft pick to Atlanta to get the veteran catch-and-shoot specialist.
While his talents are appreciated in Cleveland, Korver knows there is a long list of talent on the Cavs’ bench.
“This is the way the playoffs are going to be with me usually,” he said. “There’s going to be a few games where there’s not a lot of looks and there’s going to be that one game where there’s probably going to be some.
“I just keep on telling myself that I’ve got to be ready for that game and tonight was one of them.”
Korver averaged 5.3 points a game in the first-round sweep of Indiana and 4.5 points in the first two wins over Toronto.
So Game 3 was a night to remember for the veteran.
“It was definitely nice to get some shots and to knock them down,” he said. “And to feel like basketball player not just a decoy out there. But like I said, I know my role on the team and I’m not complaining about anything. It’s an amazing role, situation for me to be in.”
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press