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Sweep Complete

Cleveland 128, Toronto 93.

May 08, 2018 - 1:16 pm

Cleveland 128, Toronto 93. And that is exactly why, yesterday, I called for the league to cancel Game 4. Because I knew this was going to happen. Because it was brutal to watch for everyone involved. The Raptors lost the series last night, but really, they lost it days earlier. The truth is they lost it when they couldn’t close out Game 1 and from that point on, it was only a matter of time. And that time finally ran out last night. And much sooner than anyone expected. 

I’m not going to sit here and say that the Raptors mailed it in, because I don’t think they did. They were only down four after the first quarter. They didn’t come out and roll over. They fought. They just didn’t have anything to fight with. They’ve got nothing against LeBron. He is their kryptonite. 

They were still within four late in the first half, but LeBron had already snatched their collective soul. And somewhere along the way, they realized they didn’t have anything left. They realized they didn’t have a chance. And they realized that had already been punked and humiliated by LeBron James in the playoffs for the third straight year. The top seed in the east was nothing more than a tomato can, a clubber for the baddest fighter in the world.

He had 29 points. He had 11 assists. He had 8 rebounds. And he had maybe the easiest playoff game of his career. He spent more than half of the fourth quarter on the bench, sometimes getting up to dance. But if you’re in Raptors gear, LeBron dancing in the fourth wasn’t nearly as insulting as him hitting this turnaround fadeaway in the third. 

That’s not even fair. It’s not even right. The Toronto Raptors have families. They shouldn’t have to see that. It was as if LeBron was saying, Hey, guys, in case I haven’t completely shattered your spirit and your will, how’s this feel? But I’m guessing at that point, the Raptors couldn’t feel anything at all. 

Which is probably a good thing, because if they could feel, they would feel sick to their stomachs about the fact that just over a week ago, that same Cleveland team was dead in the water. LeBron had barely dragged them through the first round and he was going to be on the first thing smoking out of Cleveland. And now they’re the first team in the conference finals. The team went from absolute garbage to a four-game sweep and all because they played you. Got right against you. Humiliated the hell out of you. Again. 

And the only thing worse than being swept the way the Raptors were are the questions that they face now. The biggest one being: what the hell do we do now? Because there are no easy answers. You just had your best regular season and arguably your worst playoff performance in the same year. 

You completed overhauled your system and your approach after the last time you lost to LeBron. And it worked. You won 59 games and had the best record in the Eastern Conference. You thought you were different. You thought this was your year.

And then you lost to LeBron again. You did all that work and got speed bagged by LeBron again. You’re the butt of NBA jokes. “Yeah, but this year is different” will forever be linked with these Raptors and will forever be a punchline. 

So what do you do now? Do you fire your coach, who is a coach of the year candidate? Maybe. But can you find someone better? Do you try to break up Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan? Maybe. But can you find someone better. Do you run it back again with the same group and hope for different results? Maybe. But why would it be any different.

What I’m saying is, these are all good questions and they’re all bad answers. 

Or worst of all, do you have to just admit that it sucks. That you just lost to LeBron again. And that it sucks. It really, really, really sucks.  Or maybe you just accept that you were the wrong team, in the wrong place at the wrong time: namely, in the east, during LeBron’s tenure. Because the fact, is, they simply have no answers for this guy. They have nothing and nobody who works against him. And when the Raptors went into the tank in games 1 and 3, they had not shot at all. Not my words, but coach Dwane Casey’s: “After (those two games), I thought we were emotionally drunk. It just took the wind out of our sails.”  Emotionally drunk.  Or physically drunk. Or both. They let two get away and they were hammered in the other two. The Pacers made LeBron work for everything.  The Raptors, on the other hand, didn’t make him work for anything at all. He took whatever the hell he wanted; and did whatever the hell he wanted. 

So maybe you just have to live with the fact that no matter what you do, LeBron will be better. And that the best offseason move  you can make is hope that LeBron goes to the Western Conference. Whatever you do, don’t watch the Eastern Conference Finals. Don’t see any more of LeBron. Because you’ve already seen enough of him to last a lifetime.  And as badly as it’s gone for them against Cleveland in the playoffs, this was the worst of all. It literally could not have gone any worse for the Raptors than it just did. And given who they are, that’s really saying something.