AS I sit in my apartment a few hundred metres away from the Air Canada Centre I started thinking if the last NBA game of the season had already been played there. In a few short hours, the Toronto Raptors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in a Game 3 for the third straight year. In each of the two years past the Cavs have held a 2-0 lead, only this time Game 3 will be played on the Cavaliers own court. Uh oh. For the Raptors a season fueled by a revolutionised offense and a postseason with so much promise is almost all up in flames. Time to stand up.
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THIS was meant to be the year that things went differently for the Raptors. Led by DeMar DeRozan, Toronto steamrolled to a franchise record 59 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Things looked good early on, overcoming adversity against the first round opponent in Washington. They pulled out a big win in Game 5 and then closed out the series to set up a date with the flailing Cavs. Cleveland looked like a shadow of the championship contender we thought they could be. Then Game 1 tipped off.
HEARTBREAKINGLY the Raptors fell 113-112 in OT of the first game in the best of seven series. If that wasn’t damaging enough for their confidence a second-half scoring binge by LeBron James helped the Cavaliers blow their opponents out of the gym just two nights later. Emotionally they have just been kicked in the guts and the script has been flipped, with Toronto now the ones who look like they are barely clinging on.
AS the only team who ranked inside the top-5 offensively and defensively this season, everyone thought that Toronto was at the peak of their powers. Cleveland has had their number in recent postseasons winning the last two series with an 8-2 ledger. It wouldn’t be fair to the Raptors franchise and their fans for them to crash and burn after flirting with success throughout the year. But maybe they need to face a painful truth. Maybe, they just can’t beat LeBron.
WHILE Kevin Love and the supporting cast were the ones doing a ton of damage in the second game LeBron is the barometer for the Cavs. There is also the scary possibility that he is playing at an all-time high 15 seasons into his career. Posting 40 point games every other game the Raps just don’t have an answer for him, even with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby doing admirable jobs. The man is a freak of nature after all.
Image from si.com
FACING the prospect of a sweep I think the Raptors can do what they need to do to take at least one game in Cleveland. Still, the question remains, if they fall to the Cavs again what’s their next move? Kyle Lowry isn’t getting any younger and DeMar DeRozan may have just peaked. They do have plenty of assets to potential nab a third star to complement their stud backcourt, but will it be enough? Whatever way you look at it the next 72 hours in Ohio will tell us all we need to know about the Toronto Raptors.
Banner from bostonherald.com