The first half ended in frustration for the Raptors with DeRozan, coach Dwane Casey and his assistants screaming at the officials following a sequence that went against them.
But in a must-win game, the Raptors never led.
Game 4 is Monday night, and the chances are piled from the rattled Raptors. "We needed every point and every rebound".
A year ago in a regular season game in Washington, trailing by three with 3.4 seconds left, James caught a full-court pass from Love, and had the awareness to take one dribble, step behind the 3-point line, and hit a fadeaway three to send the game into overtime.
James finished with 38 points, Kevin Love added 21 and 16 rebounds and Kyle Korver 18 for the Cavs, who can sweep the Raptors for the second straight year. Kyle Lowry had 27 for the Raptors with DeMar DeRozan sitting out the fourth after contributing just eight points.
After a back-and-forth final quarter where both teams shared the lead on numerous occasions, Boston looked to have secured the win after a costly turnover from J.J. Redick led to a transition layup from Jaylen Brown with just 1.7 seconds on the clock to put them up by two. James received the inbounds, marched up court and then went towards the rim.
Casey had wanted the Raptors to trap James in his own end.
Love hit a turnaround hook shot to restore the Cavaliers' advantage to double digits at 70-59 with 4:14 remaining in the quarter. At 33, he continues to dazzle with a seemingly endless arsenal. "I don't subscribe to ghosts", Casey said. "Great players make great plays".
"The ability to have different things in my toolbox and the repertoire that I have, throughout the game I can kind of go through those", said James, explaining the shot. "The level of difficulty of that shot is..." he trailed off.
It was the fifth buzzer-beater of James' post-season career. Cleveland then scored 113 in Game 1 before going off for 128 in Game 2; the Cavaliers averaged just under 95 points per game over their seven-game series against the Indiana Pacers. But before that, the Cleveland will try to take the dominating 3-0 lead in Saturday's Game 3. But they are still left amazed. "I didn't want it to be real", Lowry said.
The three-time victor has successfully completed the Raptors' beyond 2 seasons, and despite playing with a different supporting cast, James is one win against a Toronto trifecta. While Simmons was more active with 16 points, Boston again did an excellent job of trying to force him into jumpers, which he would not take - Simmons only had one shot attempt outside the paint, and he missed it. Simmons was 6-of-10 at the rim, but as Boston tightened its defense it was harder and harder for Simmons to find a lane inside. "We've got to put pressure on them, and understand once we put pressure on a team, that's when we get out and play and we're at our best".