It's been a turbulent postseason for the Toronto Raptors. No side has played more games so far this postseason than the Canadian franchise and after going the full distance of seven games in their previous two rounds, they now trail the Cleveland Cavaliers 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It's been an up and down kind of playoff run for DeMar DeRozan, too. After struggling to get out of the blocks with his backcourt partner Kyle Lowry, the California-born shooting guard has rallied to find some game-changing form deep in Toronto's run.
However, alongside DeRozan rediscovering his scoring touch, Bismack Biyombo has exploded into the postseason after regular pivot Jonas Valanciunas went down with a sprained ankle in the second round against the Miami Heat.
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The 23-year-old arrived in free agency from the Charlotte Hornets last summer, but he had already made a huge impression on his teammates even before he made it to the Air Canada Centre.
DeRozan told the media ahead of Monday's game four on home soil that he told Biyombo when he arrived in Toronto how much he had hated him during their encounters on the court.
“I hated Bis,” DeRozan recalled. “When he was in Charlotte, I hated Bis. I hated him. He was a fouler, always blocking shots. He always went for the pump fake, though, but I hated Bis. I told Bismack, 'I hated you.'”
However, times change. The Congolese center is clearly someone you hate to play against but love to play with and DeRozan explained how he came to appreciate the physical pivot's presence.
"Now, by far, he's one of my favourite teammates of all time,” DeRozan said. “… Now you understand why everybody else hated him so much, and I love it now.”
Biyombo grabbed a franchise-record 26 boards in the 99-84 victory over the Cavaliers in game three and the Raptors will need a similarly commanding performance if they are to level the tie before heading back to the Quicken Loans Arena.
Even LeBron James felt Biyombo's physical impact after taking a hard flagrant foul in the fourth quarter of game three. But the man at the five spot maintains he isn't on the court to make friends or share jokes, it's all business when he steps onto the hardwood.
“Once the game starts, I probably won't talk to you until the end of the game,” Biyombo said. “… When the ball is up, I'm not trying to make friends or plans.”
The Raptors number eight is focused on impacting the game the best he can. If he continues to do that, the Raptors might just have a chance at getting back into this series, and DeRozan's affection for the big man might grow even further still.