Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron continues to haunt the Toronto Raptors

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: LeBron James
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: LeBron James /

It was supposed to be different this year, but through two games it’s more of the same. LeBron James (and the Cleveland Cavaliers) continues to haunt the Toronto Raptors

It felt different this year. 59 wins. The 1st seed. A culture reset that saw the Toronto Raptors shift from relying on an outdated iso-centric system revolving around their all-star backcourt to a system emphasising ball and player movement.

But in the end, it didn’t matter. LeBron James and his supporting cast, once again, dismantled the Toronto Raptors.

After a gruelling 7-game series with the Indiana Pacers, the Cavaliers were seemingly there for the taking. A superhuman effort was required by James to squeeze by 5th seeded Indiana, so, surely this was the year the Raptors dethroned the King…right?

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Well, for the first quarter of Game 1 it seemed that way. LeBron looked exhausted. The Cavs as a whole were pretty poor, and weren’t really playing with any urgency.

The Raptors though, somehow, someway, became completely void of memory regarding previous playoff series against LeBron and the Cavs, letting their 14-point lead slip as the Cavs pulled within 3 at intermission.

From there, the Raptors never lost the lead, but they never grew it significantly. The cracks, yet again, began to show as their fragile lead in crunch time led to inexplicably poor timeouts by Dwane Casey, DeMar DeRozan iso’s, and a 5-second call.

Cleveland, despite being far from great, forced OT without having a lead for the entire game. A poor overall game by James, magnified by his 0-4 showing in overtime, still wasn’t enough for Toronto.

Casey highlighted pre-game that the plan was to let James beat them by himself. Despite saying this, they threw multiple doubles and traps at LeBron, which worked in the Cavs’ favour. On an off shooting night (12-30, 1-8 on 3’s), James was more than happy to find his teammates, as he dished out 13 dimes.

Essentially, the Raptors let Cleveland’s supporting cast get going. After being putrid in Round 1, they provided an enormous boost, highlighted by JR Smith’s 20, Kyle Korver’s 19, and Tristan Thompson’s 14 and 12 off the bench.

If the Raptors sneak this one out, we’re having a different conversation. But, they didn’t. They let Cleveland’s role players get going, after a historically bad showing versus the Pacers, and lost a game in which LeBron James went 12-30 from the field, 1-8 from deep, and 1-6 from the line.

Toronto had a foot in their own grave. They’d lost homecourt. Game 2 was a MUST win. Perhaps it was just an off game. Maybe they’d rested a little too long.

It only got worse for the Raps, as James’ 43, 8 and 14 led the Cavs to a blowout win, setting up a near guaranteed sweep.

James’ unreal night was helped by solid showings from Smith, Green and Hill, along with Kevin Love’s best postseason game of the year, putting up 31 and 13.

The Raptors were literally the catalysts for their 0-2 hole. Once again, they weren’t disciplined in their gameplan. They went with single coverage on LeBron more than Game 1, but it wasn’t consistent. Random, ill-advised traps and doubles gave James free reign to spray the ball across the court, leading to 25 team assists and just 3 turnovers.

Toronto also went small a couple of times, with Love matched up with Miles and other smaller defenders. Love consequently had his best game of the playoffs, with Casey slow to make adjustments that were glaringly needed.

In an 0-2 hole, Kyle Lowry boldly proclaimed that the Raptors needed to give greater effort. Apparently, the last 3 postseason’s, and Game 1 of this postseason, weren’t enough of a prompt.

Must Read: 2018 NBA Playoffs: Which juggernaut is coming out the West?

Comments like this, along with DeRozan’s a year back following elimination:

"[via ESPN]“If we had LeBron on our team too, we would have won”."

highlights how starstruck the Raptors are when they look across and see number 23 in wine and gold. They don’t truly believe in themselves. When adversity strikes, the Raptors are faced with haunting memories of postseason’s past that they simply can’t get over.