“I hated him,” DeRozan said Sunday.
The Cavaliers likely feel a little anger toward Biyombo after his pivotal performance Saturday, when he helped stop Cleveland’s 10-0 start to the playoffs in Toronto’s 99-84 victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. Game 4 is Monday night at Air Canada Centre.
Biyombo hauled down a Raptors’ playoff-record 26 rebounds, blocked four shots, and scored six of his seven points in a quick fourth-quarter spurt that helped seal Toronto’s win.
That wasn’t all. Biyombo was involved in a first-half skirmish that saw LeBron James take a tumble after catching an accidental elbow from his own teammate, Tristan Thompson. Late in the fourth, Biyombo drew a flagrant foul after he collared a driving James, sending the Cavs’ star sprawling again.
DeRozan hasn’t forgotten what all that feels like.
“I hated Biz,” Toronto’s All-Star guard said. “He was a fouler, always blocking shots. He always went for the pump fake, though, but I hated Biz. Now by far he’s one of my favorite teammates of all-time.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey understands Biyombo can be both a “nightmare” and a “nuisance” to play against, whether it’s the center’s habit of finger-wagging after blocks, or flexing his muscles after big dunks.
To Biyombo, being a nuisance is no big deal. It’s the way it’s got to be.
“Until you really get to know the real side of me, then you know who I am,” he said. “But on the floor I don’t have friends.”
At the final buzzer Saturday, Biyombo lay crumpled in pain in Cleveland’s paint after being struck below the belt while battling Dahntay Jones for a loose ball. Biyombo took the hit while tapping the ball to a teammate, his eighth offensive rebound of the night.
Casey was upset at the referees after the game, complaining that Biyombo wasn’t getting calls and citing Cleveland’s 86-51 edge in free throw attempts in the series. On Sunday, Casey declined to say whether those comments had drawn league discipline.
“I’m not trying to get anybody,” Casey said. “It’s over with. I said what I had to say last night. I’m not trying to send a message. It was a comment about the game last night and it’s over with.”
Jones was suspended for Game 4 by the NBA on Sunday, while Casey was fined $25,000 for his comments.
After a testy, physical Game 3, the Cavaliers were also wondering whether they were getting a fair shake from the referees. Asked whether James and the Cavs had to sell calls, coach Tyronn Lue said it’s tough for his star because defenders “tend to bounce off” a driving James.
“If you don’t foul him hard, he’s going to get an and-one and a three-point play,” Lue said. “You’ve got to try to be physical with him so he can’t take the contact and finish at the rim. When you get around the neck, like Biyombo did last night, that’s different. But when teams hard-foul, you’re supposed to get hard-fouled when you’re going to the basket, especially being that strong and that powerful.”
Speaking before the Cavs held a film session at their Toronto hotel Sunday, James didn’t want to say whether he’s getting the whistles he deserves.
“I really don’t get involved in it too much,” James said. “I just play the game and let the referees decide what the call may be and move on. I can’t have my focus go somewhere else. That allows my energy to be somewhere it shouldn’t be.”
With Cleveland’s run over, Richard Jefferson said the mood was a little down when several Cavs gathered for a postgame meal Saturday night.
“That’s the first time in a month the dinner conversation wasn’t joyous and excited and having fun,” Jefferson said. “We were just kind of talking about the things that we needed to do. We were trying to keep our minds off of it, but you could see that everybody was a little off.”
Shooting-wise, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were more than a little off in Game 3, going a combined 4 for 28. Lue said Irving, who got the worst of a collision with Toronto’s Cory Joseph late in Saturday’s game, was feeling fine after having the wind knocked out of him.
Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, out since Game 3 of the Miami series after spraining his right ankle, is listed as doubtful for Game 4. Valanciunas is progressing slowly and will be re-evaluated Monday, Casey said.